Venezuelan mayor flees, says Hugo Chavez out to get him


Manuel Rosales, mayor of Maracaibo in Venezuela's Zulia state, entered Peru as a tourist.
A Venezuelan mayor who says President Hugo Chavez is persecuting him on trumped-up corruption charges has gone to Peru, that nation’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Maracaibo Mayor Manuel Rosales, who belongs to a different political party than does Chavez, was supposed to have turned himself in to authorities on Monday but failed to appear. Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde told CNN en Español that Rosales entered the country as a tourist and has not asked for political asylum. He has been seen in Lima, the capital, Garcia Belaunde said. Venezuelan officials say Rosales illegally enriched himself as governor of Zulia state from 2002 to 2004. Rosales denies the allegation and says Chavez is out to get him for political reasons. “Since they haven’t been able to take me off the political map by the electoral route, now they’re using the power they have in all the movements of the public prosecutor,” Rosales told CNN en Español last month. One of Rosales’ lawyers noted that Chavez said publicly in October 2008, before Rosales was charged, that he wanted the mayor in prison.

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In last month’s interview, Rosales called the charges that he had illegally accepted money “totally false,” and said he not only declared all of his income, but paid taxes on it. Katiuska Plaza, district attorney for Zulia state, said in a 26-count complaint last month that Rosales illegally enriched himself in 2002 and 2004. Rosales called the district attorney’s actions “a manipulation,” and said the prosecutor “is acting on Chavez’s orders.” There was no immediate comment from the Venezuelan government concerning Rosales’ whereabouts.

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