- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

LIMA, Peru — Peru said yesterday it withdrew its ambassador to Venezuela for the second time this year over “persistent and flagrant interference” in the country’s affairs by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The Peruvian government cited Mr. Chavez’s threat Friday to withdraw his ambassador to Lima and cut relations with Peru if former President Alan Garcia won the Peruvian presidential election. Mr. Chavez favors leftist Ollanta Humala.

“The Peruvian government has decided to withdraw its ambassador to the Republic of Venezuela with immediate effect, due to its persistent and flagrant interference in Peru’s domestic affairs,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Venezuelan officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr. Chavez, a self-proclaimed socialist revolutionary sharply at odds with Washington, first clashed with Peru at the start of the year after openly backing Mr. Humala, who won the first round of the April 9 presidential election.

Peru temporarily withdrew its ambassador from Caracas on Jan. 5 after President Alejandro Toledo accused Mr. Chavez of “political meddling” in the election by supporting Mr. Humala.

Mr. Humala has pledged greater state intervention in Peru’s free-market economy and to radically redistribute Peru’s wealth in favor of the poor.

In Havana earlier yesterday, Mr. Chavez criticized both Mr. Garcia and Mr. Toledo as “crocodiles from the same water hole.”

Mr. Chavez made his remarks during a meeting with Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Bolivia’s leftist President Evo Morales in Havana, where they signed a trade deal that is designed to exclude the United States from Latin America.

Cuban authorities did not release copies of the so-called Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.

The agreement was “a clever mixture of politics and economics, weighted toward the politics,” said Gary Hufbauer, an economist at the Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank.

Venezuela-Cuba trade is expected to reach more than $3.5 billion this year — about 40 percent higher than in 2005.

Among other measures, the deal signed by Mr. Chavez and Mr. Castro last year, and joined by Mr. Morales yesterday, supplies Cuba with 90,000 barrels of oil a day. Cuba pays for the oil by bartering services and agricultural products instead of cash.

In the deal with Mr. Morales signed yesterday, Cuba promised to send Bolivia doctors and teachers. Venezuela will send gasoline to the Bolivia and set up a $100 million fund for development programs and a $30 million fund for other social projects.

Cuba and Venezuela also agreed to buy all of Bolivia’s soybeans, recently left without a market after Colombia signed a free trade pact with the United States.

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