Former Chavez Ally Goes Into Hiding

By: Fabiola Sanchez, Associated Press Email
By: Fabiola Sanchez, Associated Press Email

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - A former political ally of President Hugo Chavez has gone into hiding after a warrant was issued for his arrest, his daughter said Friday.

Eduardo Manuitt, a former state governor, is in hiding for his safety, said his daughter, Lenny Manuitt.

A warrant was issued for Manuitt's arrest after prosecutors accused him of pocketing government funds a decade ago during his tenure as governor of central Guarico state.

Manuitt broke with Chavez last year, after the president's party did not support his daughter to succeed him as governor.

The politician's daughter said Manuitt is innocent and called the allegations politically motivated. She declined to comment on whether Manuitt had fled the country.

The former governor is the second Venezuelan politician who has recently gone into hiding alleging he's facing charges for political reasons and can't expect a fair trial.

Opposition leader Manuel Rosales is seeking political asylum in Peru, after Venezuelan prosecutors last month charged him with "illegal enrichment" when he was governor of Venezuela's western Zulia state. Rosales has stepped down as mayor of Venezuela's second-largest city, Maracaibo, and says he is the victim of political persecution.

Leading Chavez opponents say the government is using targeted corruption probes and new laws to sideline them and limit their power.

Chavez denied it in a televised speech Friday, saying his government simply aims to fight corruption.

"They need to be tried and convicted - all the criminals," Chavez said. "They think they are above everything, above the law."

Venezuelan prosecutors charged Manuitt last year with irregularities in the purchase of air conditioners for hospitals.

The legal process against Manuitt, who governed Guarico state from 1999 to 2008, was opened months after Chavez publicly accused both him and Rosales of corruption as during campaigning for mayoral and gubernatorial elections.


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