MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay’s foreign minister said Tuesday that his country faces a difficult decision as it weighs a request for political asylum from Peruvian former President Alan Garcia, who is under investigation for corruption.
“Uruguay did what it had to do and accepted the plea for asylum, because an ex-president came knocking on the door of the embassy...and said: ‘I come to ask for asylum because they’re after me.’ Uruguay, turning to an honorable tradition that goes back many years, said ‘come in,’” Rodolfo Nin Novoa recounted.
He told reporters in Montevideo that Uruguay will take “all the time necessary” to come to a decision and that, though more than a week has gone by since Garcia made the request, a couple of days were lost because Nin Novoa was on a state visit to Brussels.
With regard to Peruvian human rights organizations that went to Uruguay to ask that Garcia be denied asylum, the foreign minister said that nobody has sought a meeting with him.
“They come representing political parties. They all have their own interests. We are analyzing this with complete independence and our own judgment,” he said.
Nin Novoa acknowledged there are some precedents on which the Uruguayan government can base its decision, such as the case of Peruvian politician Victor Raul Haya de la Torre, who spent five years (1948-1953) inside the Colombian Embassy in Lima to escape persecution by Peru’s then-military ruler, Gen. Manuel Odria.
Garcia entered Uruguay’s embassy in Lima hours after a Peruvian court granted a request from prosecutors to bar him from leaving the country for 18 months as authorities investigate a charge that he took bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
He is suspected of accepting money in exchange for helping Odebrecht win a lucrative public works contract during his 2006-2011 administration.
Odebrecht reached a settlement in December 2016 with the US Justice Department in which the company pleaded guilty to paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world.
As part of the settlement, Odebrecht has been cooperating with prosecutors in the affected countries to bring corrupt officials to justice.