Brazil grants asylum to Bolivian senator

Jun 8, 2012, 11:19 PM

Associated Press

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) – Brazil announced on Friday that it was granting asylum to a Bolivian opposition senator who has holed up in its embassy in La Paz claiming political persecution and saying he feared for his life.

The decision about Sen. Roger Pinto came in a one-sentence email that did not explain Brazil’s reasoning for granting the request.

Pinto, a member of Bolivia’s small right-wing opposition bloc in congress, has been living in the embassy since May 28 and accuses President Evo Morales’ government of corruption though he has provided no evidence.

He says he sought asylum after he and his family received telephoned death threats.

But Bolivia’s government says Pinto’s exile is an opposition smear campaign against Morales. It accuses Pinto of corruption and wants him on criminal charges including economic damage to the state from when he was governor of the northern state of Pando, which borders Brazil.

Pinto did not make any statement but one of his colleagues, Sen. Geanine Anez, said Brazil had confirmed Pinto’s accusations.

Tovar Munes, a spokesman for Brazil’s Foreign Ministry in Brasilia, said Pinto remained in the embassy in La Paz.

Despite winning asylum, Pinto will not be allowed to travel to Brazil until the Bolivian government agrees with Brazil’s action, Munes said, citing rules within a 1954 convention on diplomatic asylum.

If the Bolivian government decides it will not allow Pinto to leave, “he could give up his asylum request and leave the embassy, or he could stay for a long period of time at the embassy,” said Munes.

The spokesman added that Pinto’s is alone in the embassy that his family is not with him.

Pinto is the first opponent of Morales from Bolivia’s weak, splintered opposition to obtain asylum in Brazil.

Others have obtained it in Peru and Paraguay, where former Tarija state Gov. Mario Cosio fled after being charged with corruption.

Pinto was allied with Cosio and three other lowlands opposition governors who rebelled against Morales in 2008.

But Morales won a referendum the following year that quashed the rebellion. That’s when the prosecutions of opposition leaders for alleged corruption began.

Pinto is a close political ally of former Pando Gov. Leopoldo Fernandez.

He has been in jail pending trial for more than three years, charged with instigating a crackdown in September 2008 that claimed the lives of nine indigenous Morales supporters.

___

Associated Press writer Bradley Brooks contributed to this report from Sao Paulo, Brazil

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Brazil grants asylum to Bolivian senator