Rousseff slams transfer of Bolivian exile to Brazil

AFP , Tuesday 27 Aug 2013

The incident leads to resignation of Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota

Brazil's president on Tuesday chided her diplomats for helping a Bolivian dissident escape to Brazil, saying they had put his life in danger.

Bolivian opposition senator Roger Pinto, who had been holed up for 15 months in the Brazilian embassy in La Paz, fled on Friday with the help of charge d'affairs Eduardo Saboia.

Saboia sent him on a 22 hour drive Friday to the Brazilian border in an embassy vehicle escorted by Brazilian marines, without a safe conduct pass from the Bolivian government.

An angry President Dilma Rousseff fumed that the surreptitious transfer had put Pinto's life at risk, telling reporters Tuesday: "I deeply regret that an exile was subjected to such insecurity."

"Brazil could never accept, without a safe conduct from the Bolivian government, putting in danger the life of a person who was under its protection," she added.

The incident, over which La Paz expressed deep concern, led to the resignation of Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota.

The latter was replaced late Monday by Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, Brazil's ambassador to the United Nations.

Saboia was recalled to Brasilia to explain his role in the affair.

He said Monday that he made the personal decision to help Pinto escape "because there was an imminent threat to the life and dignity of the senator."

He said Pinto was suffering from depression and was contemplating suicide.

The Brazilian government, meanwhile, said that Defense Minister Celso Amorim would look into the part Brazilian marines played in Pinto's escape.

La Paz views Pinto, an opponent of President Evo Morales, as a fugitive from justice.

He sought refuge at the Brazilian embassy last year, after being sentenced to a year in prison on corruption charges.

Pinto claimed to be a victim of political persecution for denouncing alleged cases of corruption and alleged links between authorities and drug traffickers.

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