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Court orders arrest of opposition leader Rosales

Latest update : 2009-04-22

A Venezuelan court has ordered the arrest of opposition leader Manuel Rosales on corruption charges. The court asked Interpol to detain Rosales after he sought exile in Peru claiming persecution by the regime of President Hugo Chavez.

Reuters - A Venezuelan court on Wednesday ordered the arrest of opposition leader Manuel Rosales for corruption after he sought exile in Peru citing persecution by leftist President Hugo Chavez.
 
The move raises the stakes in Chavez's confrontation with the OPEC nation's opposition leaders who accuse the anti-U.S.
Venezuelan president of seeking to emasculate elected officials critical of his socialist revolution.
 
"Manuel Rosales has demonstrated that he does not have the will to face the legal proceedings against him," the state prosecutor's office said in a statement read on state TV.
 
The court hearing the charges of illicit enrichment against Rosales has issued an arrest warrant and requested his capture by Interpol after he failed to appear at a preliminary hearing on the case.
 
Rosales slammed Chavez as a "coward" and a "little dictator" in a message broadcast on Venezuelan opposition television from Lima, where the Washington-friendly government of Peru is examining his asylum request.
 
"Everyone in Venezuela knows that I am victim of persecution ordered by Chavez, that all of my rights have been violated," Rosales said on the anti-Chavez Globovision news station.
 
Peru's foreign minister scolded Rosales, saying Peru could not be used as a "political platform" -- an apparent effort to
avoid a bilateral dispute between Venezuela and a country that has offered asylum to a number of Chavez adversaries.
 
Rosales filed an asylum request in Peru on Tuesday after arriving in Lima several days ago with 20 allies who oppose Chavez's socialist policies, a source close to the situation have told Reuters.
 
Authorities say Rosales was unable to explain some $60,000 in income while he was governor of the oil-rich state of Zulia. Rosales, who was elected mayor of Maracaibo last year, says he is innocent and claims the state refused to accept evidence the funds were legitimate.
 
Last month his supporters said he had gone into hiding because the legal proceedings against him were rigged.
 
Chavez supporters say the opposition is crying foul only because prosecutors have caught up with their top leaders. They mock the opposition for complaining about rampant corruption one minute and decrying its investigation the next.
 
A strident critic of the United States, Chavez has won repeated elections during his decade in power on a platform of redistributing oil wealth to the poor and has become the most visible leader of Latin America's leftist movements.
 
Opposition leaders have failed to oust him through repeated national strikes and struggled to produce a leader to rival his
charisma and appeal with the poor majority who say they were abandoned for years by traditional political parties.

Date created : 2009-04-22

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