LIMA – The Peruvian government has granted asylum to one former Bolivian minister and is considering requests from two other ex-government officials from that Andean nation, a Peru’s top diplomat said.
Foreign Minister Jose Garcia Belaunde said on Friday that Peru already has granted asylum to Jorge Torres Obleas, economic development minister during the second government of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who governed Bolivia from 1993-1997 and 2002-2003.
He added that former Popular Participation Minister Mirtha Quevedo and ex-Health Minister Javier Torres Goitia, who also served in Sanchez de Lozada’s second administration, also have applied for asylum in Peru and said Lima was currently evaluating those requests.
Garcia Belaunde declined to comment further about the asylum applications and the Peruvian government’s decision in Torres Obleas’ case.
The Bolivian government, meanwhile, announced Friday that three ex-ministers – Yerko Kukoc, Torres Obleas and Quevedo – had fled the country to avoid standing trial on May 18 on charges of aiding a military crackdown that led to more than 60 deaths in 2003, an episode known as the “Black October” killings.
Shortly afterward, Quevedo told a Bolivian television channel that she was in Lima, having arrived there on vacation on April 28.
She said that while in the Peruvian capital she learned that Bolivian prosecutors planned to order the arrest of several people accused of “genocide” in connection with the violent events of 2003.
Quevedo told the channel there is no guarantee she will receive a fair trial in her homeland and that she will wait for judicial proceedings to begin before deciding her next move.
Former President Sanchez de Lozada, currently living in exile in the United States, and several of his former ministers have been accused by prosecutors of “genocide,” which under Bolivian law can refer to instances of mass murder that fall short of the attempted extermination of an ethnic, racial, religious or other group.
The more than 60 “Black October” deaths occurred as soldiers and police were seeking to quell a wave of grassroots protests against a plan to export Bolivian gas to the United States via Chilean ports.
Many Bolivians reject the idea of exporting the fuel through a Chilean port located in the same territory that Bolivia lost during a war with its neighbor in the late 19th century.
Sanchez de Lozada resigned amid the protests on Oct. 17, 2003 and fled to the United States, where his former defense minister, Carlos Sanchez, and erstwhile energy minister, Jorge Berindoague, also live.
Torres Obleas is the second politician to be granted asylum in recent weeks by Peruvian authorities, who accepted a similar request from Venezuelan opposition leader Manuel Rosales.
President Hugo Chavez was angered by that ruling in favor of Rosales, who said he was a victim of political persecution in Venezuela, and responded by withdrawing his ambassador to Peru.
Opponents of both Chavez and Morales frequently accuse those socialist leaders and allies of acting outside the constitution in an attempt to persecute their political enemies and further entrench themselves in power.