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Brazil’s top diplomat quits over row with Bolivia

AFP-JIJI

Brazil’s foreign minister resigned Monday over soaring tensions with La Paz after Brazilian diplomats spirited away a Bolivian opposition senator wanted for corruption.

“President Dilma Rousseff has accepted minister (Antonio) Patriota’s resignation,” a government spokesman said, adding that he would be succeeded by Luis Alberto Figueiredo, Brazil’s U.N. ambassador.

A Brazilian diplomat had revealed earlier Monday that he helped a Bolivian opposition senator escape to Brazil after he was holed up for 15 months in Brasilia’s embassy in La Paz despite having been granted asylum.

Sen. Roger Pinto, an opponent of Bolivian President Evo Morales, made his escape Friday in an embassy car escorted by Brazilian marines, driving 22 hours to the southwestern Brazilian city of Corumba, 1,600 km from La Paz.

“I chose life. I chose to protect a person, a persecuted politician, like (Brazilian) President Dilma (Rousseff) was persecuted,” Eduardo Saboia, the Brazilian charge d’affaires in La Paz, told Globo television on his arrival in Brasilia, where he was recalled for consultations.

The diplomat said 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 Bolivian government views Pinto as a fugitive from justice after he was accused of corruption, for which he was sentenced to a year in prison.

He sought refuge at the Brazilian Embassy last year, claiming to be a victim of political persecution after he denounced alleged cases of corruption and alleged links between authorities and drug traffickers.

His case strained relations between La Paz and Brasilia. Morales last year said Brazil’s decision to grant Pinto asylum was “a mistake.”

In La Paz, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca expressed “deep concern over the transgression of the principle of reciprocity and international courtesy.”

“Under no condition could Sen. Pinto leave the country without a safe conduct pass,” Choquehuanca said.