Bolivia demands return of senator who fled to Brazil
AFPLA PAZ, Bolivia -- Bolivia's President Evo Morales demanded Wednesday the return of an opposition senator who escaped to Brazil after 15 months holed up in its embassy in La Paz.
August 30, 2013, 11:26 am TWN
Roger Pinto fled in an embassy vehicle under the escort of Brazilian marines last Friday, embarrassing President Dilma Rousseff, who has since replaced her foreign minister.
Morales called on Brazil to repatriate Pinto, who was sentenced to a year in prison in a corruption case.
“It is important to return Roger Pinto to Bolivian justice and that he be tried like anyone else in authority involved in corruption,” Morales said in his first public remarks on the case.
“I would have sent the corrupt one over the border,” if it had happened the other way around, Morales added.
Pinto, who was granted political asylum by Brazil after taking refuge in its embassy in La Paz last year, claims he is a victim of political persecution after he accused the government of corruption and ties to drug trafficking.
He fled La Paz with the help of Brazilian charge d'affaires Eduardo Saboia, who sent him on a 22-hour drive to the Brazilian border under escort but without a safe conduct pass from the Bolivian government.
Pinto spoke Wednesday to Bolivian media about the escape, revealing that he wore a bulletproof vest in the car and insisting his journey had official backing, citing the use of the Brazilian marines and embassy staff.
“I do not know the level (of governmental approval), I know people (who carried out the operation), but it was a decision of a competent authority, otherwise it could not have been done,” Pinto said via Skype, but without naming those who had secured his passage to Brazil.
On Tuesday, an angry Rousseff said the surreptitious transfer had put Pinto's life at risk, telling reporters: “I deeply regret that an exile was subjected to such insecurity.”
Foreign minister Antonio Patriota resigned over the incident and was replaced by Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, Brazil's ambassador to the United Nations.