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Brazilian FM resigns amid simmering diplomatic tensions with Bolivia

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota stepped down Monday amid escalating tensions with La Paz after a Bolivian senator fled homeland with the help of a Brazilian diplomat.

Patriota resigned after meeting with President Dilma Rousseff and was replaced by Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, head of the Brazilian mission to the United Nations, according to a statement from the president's office.

Earlier, Eduardo Saboia, a Brazilian diplomat stationed in Laz Paz, disclosed that he managed to successfully smuggle Roger Pinto, an opponent of Bolivian President Evo Morales, to Brazil last Friday after the latter was holed up for 15 months in the Brazilian embassy in Bolivia.

Saboia, the Brazilian charge d'affaires in La Paz, described what he did as a "personal decision."

"I chose life. I chose to protect a person, a persecuted politician," he told Brazil's Globo television.

Pinto, who was wanted by Bolivian authorities for corruption and other charges, arrived in Brasilia on Monday after being transported Friday from La Paz to the Brazilian border with an embassy car escorted by Brazilian marines.

The Bolivian government was outraged, saying the incident would hurt relations between the two neighboring countries.

"What happened is serious, which is why we are demanding explanations from Brazil," Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca told a press conference on Monday

Pinto, a right wing politician, had blamed Morales for corruption, as part of what the Bolivian government called as a smear plot against the president.

Facing a corruption investigation himself, he then sought asylum at the Brazilian embassy, which was granted in June 2012.

After Pinto's flight, Patriota had recalled Saboia to Brazil for an probing into the incident. He also vowed to take disciplinary actions if necessary.

The incident is expected to further fan up tensions between La Paz and Brasilia over Pinto, as Morales had called the Brazilian decision to grant Pinto asylum was "a mistake."

Bolivian foreign minister Choquehuanca described the assisted escape of Pinto as "transgression of the principle of reciprocity and international courtesy."

[Source: Xinhua, Rio de Janeiro, 26Aug13]

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