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Rousseff slams transfer of Bolivian exile to Brazil

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff  participates in the formal session of the senate in Brasilia on August 27, 2013
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff participates in the formal session of the senate in Brasilia on August 27, 2013. Brazil's president fumed at her diplomats Tuesday for helping a Bolivian dissident escape across the border without guaranteed safe passage

Brazil's president fumed at her diplomats Tuesday for helping a Bolivian dissident escape across the border without guaranteed safe passage -- an incident that prompted her foreign minister's resignation.

An angry President Dilma Rousseff said that the surreptitious transfer had put Bolivian opposition senator Roger Pinto's life at risk, telling reporters Tuesday: "I deeply regret that an exile was subjected to such insecurity."

"Brazil could never accept, without a safe conduct from the Bolivian government, putting in danger the life of a person who was under its protection," she added.

Pinto, who had been holed up for 15 months in the Brazilian embassy in La Paz, fled on Friday with the help of charge d'affaires Eduardo Saboia.

Saboia sent him on a 22-hour drive Friday to the Brazilian border in an embassy vehicle, escorted by Brazilian marines but without a safe conduct pass from the Bolivian government.

The incident, over which La Paz expressed deep concern, led Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota to resign.

He was replaced late Monday by Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, Brazil's ambassador to the United Nations.

Saboia was recalled to Brasilia to explain his role in the affair. He said Monday he made the personal decision to help Pinto escape "because there was an imminent threat to the life and dignity of the senator."

He said Pinto was suffering from depression and was contemplating suicide.

Bolivian opposition senator Roger Pinto waves at the press at the home of his lawyer in Brasilia on August 26, 2013
Bolivian opposition senator Roger Pinto waves at the press at the home of his lawyer in Brasilia on August 26, 2013.

Brazil, meanwhile, said Defense Minister Celso Amorim would look into the part Brazilian marines played in Pinto's escape.

In a statement, the defense ministry said it was not consulted nor did it have any prior knowledge of the escape plan for Pinto.

"The soldiers (marines) joined the trip at the request of the Brazilian charge d'affaires in La Paz. According to information provided by the Brazilian Navy, their presence was solely aimed at ensuring the security of the Brazilian diplomat," the text said.

Marines are tasked with protecting Brazilian embassies and diplomatic staff.

La Paz views Pinto, an opponent of President Evo Morales, as a fugitive from justice.

The senator sought refuge at the Brazilian embassy last year, after being sentenced to a year in prison on corruption charges.

Pinto claimed to be a victim of political persecution for denouncing alleged cases of corruption and alleged links between authorities and drug traffickers.

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