- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 4, 2006

LIMA, Peru — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday withdrew his country’s ambassador to Peru, the latest move in a spat sparked by Mr. Chavez’s open support for Peru’s left-wing presidential candidate, Ollanta Humala.

On Saturday, Peru pulled its ambassador to Venezuela, citing Mr. Chavez’s “persistent and flagrant” interference in Peruvian affairs.

In the coming weeks, Peru faces a runoff presidential election that likely will pit Mr. Humala, an ideological colleague of Mr. Chavez’s, against a former president, Alan Garcia.

Mr. Chavez repeatedly has expressed his support for Mr. Humala, a retired colonel whose political orientation makes him a likely recruit to the anti-American circle established by Mr. Chavez and Presidents Fidel Castro of Cuba and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

Stoking interest in the election is a political fight over the ratification of a free-trade agreement signed with the United States.

Mr. Chavez is a vehement opponent of trade deals with the United States. On Saturday he, Mr. Morales and Mr. Castro met in Havana to sign a “socialist” trade agreement that would exclude the United States.

Peru and Venezuela have been trading barbs for weeks. Mr. Chavez called Mr. Garcia a “thief,” and Mr. Garcia responded by calling Mr. Chavez and Mr. Morales “historical losers.”

Heads of state typically refrain from commenting on elections in other countries.

Many Peruvian politicians have grown increasingly annoyed with Mr. Chavez’s public shows of support for Mr. Humala, as well as his brusque denouncements of Mr. Humala’s opponents.

Mr. Garcia and Mr. Humala are expected to face each other in a runoff election in late May or early June.

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