Brazil's foreign minister helps Bolivian politician flee, then resigns

After 450 days holed up in the Brazilian embassy in La Paz, the Bolivian opposition politician Roger Pinto left the country with the help of unauthorized Brazilian diplomatic action.

Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
Bolivian opposition politician Roger Pinto waves from the front door of his Brazilian lawyer Fernando Tiburcio Pena's house, in Brasilia August 26, 2013.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, The views expressed are the author's own.

Just over one year ago I wrote about the case of Roger Pinto, the Bolivian opposition politician accused of corruption by the government. Pinto had taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy in La Paz, received asylum from the Brazilian government, but was denied safe passage by President Evo Morales. The case had odd parallels to the Julian Assange case, the founder of Wikileaks who remains in the Ecuador embassy in London, having received asylum from President Correa while wanted for questioning in a sexual assault investigation in Sweden.

After 450 days, Brazilian diplomats used a diplomatic vehicle to help Pinto escape, claiming that his physical and mental health was at risk. President Rousseff apparently did not authorize this action. As a result, Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota has resigned and been replaced by Brazil's UN Ambassador, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo. Patriota will switch places with Figueiredo and go to the UN.

While the Morales administration would have certainly preferred Pinto arrested, having him out of the Brazilian embassy is one less headache for all of UNASUR. Having Pinto stuck in asylum limbo in Bolivia was a hassle for everyone and an embarrassment for a region trying to have a unified position on other international issues, such as the current diplomatic disputes over Assange and Snowden.

It's a mild embarrassment for Patriota, but his resignation gives Brazil an easy way to turn the page on the issue with Bolivia before the controversy even has a chance to heat up. He took one for the team and being Brazil's UN ambassador is not a minor position by any means.

– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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