Ex-Chavez Ally Seeks Asylum in Peru to Evade Trial

A former ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in Peru seeking political asylum to avoid corruption charges at home that he contends are politically motivated, his lawyer said Friday.

Didalco Bolivar is a former governor who split with Chavez in 2007 when he refused to join the president's newly formed ruling party. Last month, Bolivar was summoned for arraignment on charges alleging he sidestepped open bidding rules to handpick a contractor in 2004 while serving as governor of Venezuela's Aragua state.

Bolivar's lawyer in Peru, Walter Gutierrez, called the charges political persecution and said he filed an asylum petition in Lima on Friday.

Bolivar "is being politically persecuted because they are charging him with certain crimes without formally opening penal proceedings," Gutierrez told Lima's RPP radio.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde confirmed Bolivar is in Peru but told The Associated Press that he had not yet received the asylum petition.

Gutierrez said he expected Peruvian officials to respond to the request within 12 days.

Peru has become a hub for asylum-seeking people on the outs with the region's left-wing governments. Venezuelan opposition leader Manuel Rosales and three former Cabinet ministers from Bolivia have already received asylum from Peru's conservative government.

Relations between Peru and Bolivian President Evo Morales, a Chavez ally, have been tense since the former ministers were given asylum. The men are being tried in absentia on charges of genocide for their alleged role in the deaths of anti-government protesters during a military crackdown in 2003, before Morales took office.

Rosales, who was a presidential candidate against Chavez in Venezuela's 2006 election, received Peruvian asylum in April after being accused by Venezuelan prosecutors of illegal enrichment while
he was governor of western Zulia state.

Venezuelan prosecutors have filed corruption charges in recent months against several prominent government opponents, including Rosales, former defense minister Raul Baduel and another former governor, Eduardo Manuitt.

Like Bolivar, they argue the charges are politically motivated.


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