LATIN AMERICA

Rousseff forces minister out after Bolivian politician flees embassy

Patriota "knew nothing" of decision to help corruption suspect enter Brazil

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (r) talks to her Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota in a file photo from 2011.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (r) talks to her Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota in a file photo from 2011.EVARISTO SA (AFP)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Monday asked Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota to resign. The decision comes hard on the heels of a diplomatic confrontation with Bolivia over the flight into Brazil of Bolivian senator Roger Pinto Molina, whom, it emerged, was aided by the Brazilian embassy in La Paz.

The national press holds that Rousseff was “irritated” to find out that her country’s diplomats had helped Molina escape to Brazil during a covert night-time operation, and asked Patriota to step down.

The incident has worsened already tense bilateral relations between both countries. Bolivia considers Pinto Molina a criminal who has already been convicted of corruption and faces 14 trials for offenses ranging from cutting down trees on his estate to causing losses worth 1.7 million dollars to the state when he was a government official. The Brazilian opposition has long supported Pinto Molina, claiming he is the victim of an attack by the Bolivian government for publicly linking high-ranking officials with the drug trade. Pinto Molina had been living at the Brazilian Embassy since May 28, 2012.

The Brazilian opposition has long supported Pinto Molina, claiming he is the victim of an attack by the Bolivian government

The outgoing foreign minister, who allegedly had no knowledge of the goings-on at the embassy in La Paz, will be transferred to the United Nations, where he will serve as the Brazilian representative. The current UN representative, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, will be offered the foreign portfolio instead.

The Brazilian media had harshly criticized its diplomats’ management of the situation, calling it a lack of professionalism and forcing Rousseff to make a move.

Meanwhile, Bolivia has asked the Brazilian government for explanations over an incident it considers “very serious.”

This is the first time in many years that such a high-ranking minister is suddenly removed from his post. But Patriota is not the first presidential aide that Rousseff has shown the door. A number of other government officials have been forced to step down over allegations of corruption.

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