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Diplomatic row between Chile and Peru over spying accusations

Tuesday, November 17th 2009 - 12:54 UTC
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Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (left) and Peruvian President Alan Garcia (right) at the APEC Summit. Photo: Reuters Chilean President Michelle Bachelet (left) and Peruvian President Alan Garcia (right) at the APEC Summit. Photo: Reuters

In separate statements this weekend, Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez and government spokesperson Carolina Toha refuted the spying accusations made by Peruvian officials late last week.
“Chile does not spy” said the Chilean government officials.

The spying accusations followed Peru’s arrest Thursday of Peruvian Air Force (FAP) official Victor Ariza Mendoza, charged with treason.

Mendoza worked at Peru’s embassy in Santiago in 2003 and is accused of passing secret documents to Chilean intelligence in exchange for large sums of money. Peru has also issued arrest warrants for two Chilean intelligence officers as well as other Peruvian military officials.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde announced on Friday that the country’s President Alan Garcia would cancel his meeting in Asia with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet due to Chile’s involvement in a “lamentable and offensive act of espionage” against Lima.

”He (President Garcia) will instruct our ambassador in Santiago to urge Chilean authorities to identify and punish those involved in this spying ring,” Belaunde said.

“Relations between our countries are at a delicate moment.”

Chilean Foreign Minister Fernandez responded by denying the charges. “Chile is not interested in espionage,” his statement read.

The accusations are viewed with some cynicism in Santiago.

Mendoza was arrested in October, yet the story only emerged late last week, coinciding with the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit attended by both Bachelet and Garcia.

Still, this is the latest in a series of diplomatic rows between the countries, whose history is riddled with conflict. Last August, Peruvian Foreign Minister Belaúnde accused Chile of contravening international agreements by trying to change the maritime frontiers shared by the two countries and sought international arbitration to resolve the dispute.

Lima has also accused Santiago of acting in a threatening manner, saying recent Chilean military exercises were designed with a conflict against Peru in mind. Further accusations were levelled regarding Chilean arms purchases earlier this year.

On Friday, Belaunde criticized Chile’s possible 450 million US dollars purchase of missiles and radar equipment from the U.S.

“They are trying to start an arms race…This purchase goes against the interests of Latin American peace,” said Belaunde.

Chile’s President Bachelet accused the Peruvians of escalating tensions between the countries.

“No one in Chile wants to start an arms race. We are not preparing for a war,” she said, referring to criticisms of the arms deal.

Peru’s foreign ambassador in Santiago, Fabio Vio, will meet with foreign Relations Undersecretary Alberto Van Klaveren this week to try to resolve the issue.

By James Fowler - Santiago Times

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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