Manuel Rosales, one of the leaders of the opposition in Venezuela, has fled to Peru after missing a court date in his home country.
The politician is facing multi-million dollar corruption charges relating to his time as the governor of the Zulia region. Specifically, authorities claim he was unable to explain US$60,000 of expenses whilst in power in the oil-rich state.
He was due to appear in court but refused to turn himself in. A spokesman for his party ‘Un Nuevo Tiempo’ indicated he had been hiding in Venezuela, before arriving in Peru on a tourist visa.
They also suggested that the government had fabricated the accusations to form a smear campaign against him. “He won’t present himself before a court that’s been turned into a political tool,” said Omar Barboza, president of Mr Rosales’ party. Mr Barboza added “he will be judged by the Venezuelan people”.
The accused is mayor of Venezuela’s second largest city, Maracaibo. He is fiercely critical of the Chávez regime and ran against the current president in the 2006 elections.
The government have called Mr Rosales’s disappearance “cowardly”. It was initially thought he had fled to Panama or Colombia. Peruvian foreign minister, Jose Antonio Garcia, confirmed this morning that he had arrived in Peru, but had not yet sought asylum.