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  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 6:01am
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DIPLOMACY

Brazil’s foreign minister quits over row with Bolivia

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 3:00am
 

Brazil's foreign minister has resigned over rising tensions with La Paz after Brazilian diplomats spirited away a Bolivian opposition senator wanted for corruption.

The announcement came after a meeting late on Monday between Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Antonio Patriota, 59, who will be replaced by Luis Alberto Figueiredo Machado, Brazil's ambassador to the United Nations in New York.

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

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

I chose life. I chose to protect a person, a persecuted politician, like President Dilma was persecuted
Eduardo Saboia, the Brazilian chargé d'affaires in La Paz

"I chose life. I chose to protect a person, a persecuted politician, like President Dilma was persecuted," Eduardo Saboia, the Brazilian chargé 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".

Pinto, who flew from Corumba to Brasilia on Sunday, had not been granted permission to leave his country.

Brazil's foreign ministry is investigating how Pinto was able to leave the embassy. It said it would take appropriate measures.

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