- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 31, 2009

CARACAS, VENEZUELA (AP) - A leading opponent of President Hugo Chavez has taken refuge somewhere in the city of Maracaibo because he fears for his safety, the leader of his party said Tuesday.

Prosecutors are seeking to try Maracaibo Mayor Manuel Rosales on a corruption charge. Rosales calls it an attempt by Chavez to eliminate him from politics.

“He’s not going to turn himself in without the possibility of a fair trail,” said Omar Barboza, who heads the opposition party. He said Rosales has been followed, harassed and threatened, and the party wants “to protect Rosales’ life.”

“He’s in a Maracaibo, in a safe place. But of course he’s not going to turn himself in to that pack that’s chasing him, unless there’s the possibility of a fair trail,” Barboza told reporters.

Prosecutors want to try Rosales on a charge of illegal enrichment and are calling for his arrest. A court has yet to rule on whether he should be detained while awaiting trial.

Information Minister Jesse Chacon said Tuesday that there’s plenty of evidence for Rosales to be tried, and that he should defend himself in court.

Rosales has called the charge an attempt at a “political lynching” and vows to fight the charge.

His wife, Evelyn Trejo, appeared with their children on television and said the opposition leader is continuing his work as mayor. Trejo said her husband “fears for the security of his family.”

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