Faced with corruption charges, Venezuela's opposition leader Manuel Rosales (pictured) will remain in hiding until he can defend himself, his party's president Omar Barboza said on Tuesday.
AFP - Venezuela's top opposition leader and Maracaibo mayor Manuel Rosales will remain in hiding until he can defend himself properly against corruption charges leveled against him, his party said Tuesday.
"If he turns himself in, he wouldn't be surrendering to the justice system, but to (President) Hugo Chavez, who is persecuting him," Un Nuevo Tiempo Party (UNT) president Omar Barboza told a press briefing in Caracas.
He recalled that Chavez in October accused Rosales of trying to assassinate him and vowed to put his former rival in the 2006 election behind bars.
One of the most outspoken critics of Chavez, Rosales ran afoul of the leftist president after he was linked to a 2002 attempted coup against the president. Since his election last year as mayor of Maracaibo, he has been a thorn in Chavez's side.
Earlier this month, the Attorney General's office charged Rosales with graft during his 2002-2004 tenure as governor of Zulia state, and asked for an arrest warrant against him, which has yet to be granted by a court.
Barboza denied rumors Rosales had fled to Panama. "He is in Zulia (state) in a safe place, but he won't turn himself over to a pack of dogs."
He said Rosales was carrying out his duties as Maracaibo mayor from his hiding place, saying that he was being hounded by "people we're not sure might be police."
Police investigators confirmed that no arrest warrant has been issued for Rosales, but Communications Minister Jesse Chacon on Tuesday urged Rosales to prove his innocence in court and denied that the mayor was a victim of political persecution.
"If we continue politicizing every trial case we'll never put a stop to corruption," Chacon said, warning Rosales that he would be on the wrong side of the law if he abandons his duties.
"He should be working in his office right now. If he's not, that's corruption," said Chacon.
Date created : 2009-04-01