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Peru's leader called Bush's 'office boy' by Venezuelan official
Alejandro Toledo insulted by Venezuela's Information Minister
The Associated Press (apwire)     Email Article  Print Article 
Published 2006-05-02 04:17 (KST)   
LIMA, Peru

A war of words between Peru and Venezuela escalated on Monday, as a top Venezuelan official called Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo the "office boy" of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Information Minister Willian Lara's comments in Venezuela came the day after Toledo urged Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to "learn to govern in democracy" and said Latin America should not fall into "easy populism" based on petroleum-dollar diplomacy.

"Toledo is nothing more than George Bush's office boy," Lara said, suggesting that Toledo's criticism of Chavez meant he was "maybe looking for employment after he leaves the presidency of Peru." The two South American nations have been in an escalating diplomatic dispute over Chavez's endorsement of Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala and his criticism of Toledo's free-trade pact with the United States.

In a series of statements, Chavez has called one of Humala's rivals a thief and the other a candidate of the oligarchy.

On Saturday, Peru withdraw its ambassador from Venezuela to protest what it called Chavez's "persistent and flagrant" interference in its presidential election.

Lara said Monday that Venezuela would not reciprocate: "We won't fall for the provocations of desperate people who know, as in Toledo's case, they're leaving presidency of Peru with lots of pain and little glory." Toledo criticized the Venezuelan leader the night before, saying on the news program Cuarto Poder: "Mr. Chavez, learn to govern in democracy. Learn to work with us. Our arms are open to integrate this Latin America, not destabilize it." Latin America "cannot fall into the trap of easy populism based on a check in the pocket from petroleum dollars," Toledo added -- a clear reference to Chavez's use of Venezuela's position as the world's fifth-largest oil exporter to increase his left-leaning influence in the region while trying to reduce that of Washington.

Peruvian candidate Alan Garcia last week referred to Chavez and his close ally, Bolivian President Evo Morales, as spoiled children and "historical losers" after they criticized Peru's signing of a free-trade pact with the United States.

Chavez threatened to withdraw Venezuela's ambassador if Garcia is elected.

In January, Peru recalled its ambassador from Venezuela for more than a week after Chavez said Humala was the voice of Peru's downtrodden and called Peru's then-front running presidential hopeful Lourdes Flores "the candidate of Peru's oligarchy."

TAMY HIGA
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter The Associated Press

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