Government Asks Venezuela to Hand Over Ex-President to Face Charges
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) _ The government has asked Venezuela to hand over ex-President Salvador Jorge Blanco who faces corruption charges, Foreign Minister Donald Reid Cabral said Tuesday.
Six days ago, Jorge Blanco, his wife and two children fled to the residence of Venezuela’s ambassador and the former president asked for political asylum.
Jorge Blanco was president from 1982-86. The charges against him involve the purchase of about $35 million worth of vehicles and equipment for the armed forces and police during his last two years in office.
The government claims illegal commissions were paid, some of the equipment was not delivered, and the purchases were made through companies that kept no records and closed soon after Joaquin Balaguer was elected president in May 1986. He was installed in office in August.
Jorge Blanco insists he is being politically persecuted.
Venezuelan Ambassador Abel Clavijos Ostos said his government has not acted on the asylum request. ″The situation continues the same,″ he told reporters. ″Dr. Jorge Blanco is a guest at my home and there is no time limit to how long he might stay.″
Balaguer’s government denied the charges against Jorge Blanco are politically motivated.
″To Dominican authorities, Jorge Blanco is a fugitive from justice,″ said Mario Read Vittini, Balaguer’s legal adviser. ″Clearly, special considerations apply to a former president of the republic, but the legal situation doesn’t change.″
Jorge Blanco’s Dominican Revolutionary Party has given mild support to his bid for asylum.
Party President Jose Francisco Pena Gomez suggested asylum might be granted on humanitarian grounds, or Jorge Blanco could just be given safe conduct to leave this Caribbean nation.
Protesting left-wing groups said they will set up pickets Wednesday outside Clavijos Ostos’ ranch-style house, which is guarded by anti-riot and plainclothes police.
Several of Jorge Blanco’s top military aides and business associates have been jailed in the corruption investigation. Under the Dominican Republic’s legal system, defendants may be held in preventive detention while charges against them are investigated.
Jorge Blanco’s fled to the Venezuelan ambassador’s house the day after Judge Francia Concepcion interrogated him for nine hours and then issued an order for his arrest.
Jorge Blanco ignored the order and was in hiding when Attorney General Ramon Gonzales Hardy and a police general went to his house to arrest him.
The former president and his family then went to the ambassador’s residence, about a half-mile away from Jorge Blanco’s home in a fashionable suburb of Santo Domingo.