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Peru plays down diplomatic rift with Venezuela

Peru’s government on Sunday sought to play down a diplomatic rift with Venezuela after announcing the withdrawal of its ambassador from Caracas amid accusations of interference in Lima’s domestic affairs.

”I’m confident that an attitude of equanimity will persist,” Peruvian Foreign Minister Oscar Maurtua told the RPP radio network on Sunday, saying that Peru’s envoy would return to Lima on Sunday evening.

Peru’s foreign ministry announced late on Saturday it had decided to ”immediately withdraw” its ambassador, accusing Venezuela of persistently interfering in its domestic affairs.

The decision was made due to ”the repeated statements made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez about the Peruvian electoral process and the ones made today about President Alejandro Toledo”, the ministry statement had said.

”It was a hard decision to take, but we thought about it very carefully,” Maurtua said on Sunday.

In January, Lima recalled its ambassador for a short time as well after Chávez voiced support for Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala, a leftist populist, ahead of the country’s April 9 elections.

This time, Peru withdrew the envoy one day after the leftist Venezuelan leader called social democratic candidate Alan Garcia a ”thief” and again expressed support for Humala, who will face Garcia in a run-off after neither gained a majority of votes in the poll.

Venezuela’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Latin America, Pavel Rondon, told Radio Caracol on Sunday that Caracas was reviewing whether to recall its ambassador for consultations.

”We have not made a decision in this respect. We are evaluating the situation, but we don’t necessarily have to respond with a recall,” Rondon said.

Garcia will face Humala, who led the first round of voting, in the presidential run-off in late May or early June.

Chávez has threatened to remove his envoy from Lima if Garcia is elected in the second round. — Sapa-AFP

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