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Chavez critic flees country amid probes

Manuel Rosales stepped down last month as mayor of Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city.  (FileAssociated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Manuel Rosales stepped down last month as mayor of Maracaibo, Venezuela’s second-largest city. (FileAssociated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington Post

A top Venezuelan opposition leader is seeking political asylum in Peru, according to his aides, after fleeing his country to avoid what he calls a politically motivated witch hunt directed by the government of President Hugo Chavez.

Manuel Rosales, a fierce critic of Chavez, left the country Sunday amid a wave of indictments and government investigations of the president’s most vocal political foes. The Chavez administration has also stripped some functions of government from opposition politicians who wrested control of several of Venezuela’s biggest cities and states from his socialist party in regional elections in November.

“There is a persecution against the entire democratic dissidents movement in this country,” said Edward Rodriguez, a spokesman for Rosales.

Prosecutors called for Rosales’ arrest in March on charges of illicit enrichment, and lawmakers in the National Assembly have opened a probe to determine the source of $60,000 that Rosales made while governor of the oil-rich state of Zulia. Rosales was elected mayor of Maracaibo in November but stepped down last month in the wake of the government’s investigation.

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