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Peru Recalls Ambassador From Venezuela

April 30, 2006

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Peru recalled its ambassador from Venezuela on Saturday over what it called President Hugo Chavez’s ``persistent and flagrant interference″ in its upcoming presidential elections.

Chavez has characterized one of Peru’s presidential candidates as a thief and repeatedly endorsed a nationalist candidate.

``The government of Peru has decided to immediately remove its ambassador from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the persistent and flagrant interference in internal affairs of Peru, in clear violation of the principles and norms of international law,″ the Foreign Ministry said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press.

The statement said the decision also was in response to ``repeated declarations″ by Chavez about Peru’s electoral process and comments he made Saturday aimed at Peru’s President Alejandro Toledo.

Tensions began when the presidential candidate Alan Garcia earlier this week referred to Chavez and his close ally, Bolivian President Evo Morales, as ``historical losers″ after they criticized Peru’s signing of a free-trade pact with the United States.

Chavez responded by calling Garcia, whose 1985-90 administration was marked by hyperinflation, food shortages and guerrilla violence, a ``thief″ and ``crook.″ Chavez threatened to withdraw Venezuela’s ambassador if the former leader is elected in an upcoming presidential runoff against Ollanta Humala.

``I hope that Ollanta Humala becomes president of Peru,″ Chavez also said. ``To Ollanta Humala, go comrade! Long live Ollanta Humala! Long live Peru!″

Humala has pledged greater state intervention in Peru’s free-market economy and to radically redistribute Peru’s wealth in favor of the poor majority.

During a meeting with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Morales in Havana, where the three signed a trade pact, Chavez said the complaints by Toledo’s government showed that Garcia and the Peruvian leader are ``crocodiles from the same waterhole.″

On Friday, Toledo told reporters: ``I will not permit President Chavez to once again interject himself (in Peru’s affairs) ... much less with blackmail and threats.″

Peru also recalled its ambassador from Venezuela for more than a week in January to protest when Chavez said Humala was the voice of Peru’s downtrodden, and described Peru’s then-front running presidential candidate Lourdes Flores, a former congresswoman, as ``the candidate of Peru’s oligarchy.″

Humala received nearly 31 percent of the vote in Peru’s April 9 election, ensuring him a spot in the runoff vote expected for May 28 or June 4.

With nearly all votes counted, Garcia has held his second-place lead with 24.3 percent, compared to Flores’ 23.7 percent.

___

Associated Press writers Edison Lopez in Lima, Peru, Natalie Obiko Pearson in Caracas, Venezuela, and Andrea Rodriguez in Havana, Cuba contributed to this report.

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