By Maria Lopez Conde, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Relations, Antonio Patriota, resigned last Monday, August 26th following the fallout over a Brazilian diplomat’s decision to help a Bolivian politician who had been found guilty of corruption in that country escape to Brazil. The Bolivian Senator Roger Pinto Molina was granted asylum at the Brazilian embassy in May 2012, where he had remained since.
In June 2012, Molina was condemned to one year in prison for corruption charges, which resulted in a US$1.7 million loss for the Bolivian government. That country’s authorities had denied Molina a safe conduct needed to leave Bolivia because it did not consider him a political persecutee.
A diplomat at the Brazilian embassy in La Paz, Eduardo Saboia, who has taken full responsibility for orchestrating the Bolivian politician’s escape, got Brazilian marines to escort Molina out of the country in a convoy headed for the Brazilian border.
Saboia’s plan to bring Molina to Brazil was seen as a breach in hierarchy, as well as a violation of international asylum statutes by both Brazil and Bolivia, who accused Brazil of disobeying international law and demanded explanations from its government. President Rousseff was only notified of the situation once Molina had already made it into Brazil on Saturday.
According to reports, the Planalto – the seat of Brazil’s executive power – labeled the scandal over the Bolivian Senator as a true disaster, and turned Patriota’s position as the country’s top diplomat untenable.
On Monday, Saboia, had compared the Bolivian deputy’s 452-day stay at the embassy under asylum to the Doi-Codi, adding that he had chosen to protect “a political persecutee, as President Dilma [Rousseff] was persecuted.”
“I was at Doi-Codi, I know what Doi-Codi is,” Rousseff said, referring to the Brazilian government organ that was in charge of political repression and intelligence during the Brazilian dictatorship. “I can assure you: the Doi-Codi is as distant from the Brazilian embassy in La Paz as heaven is from hell,” she affirmed.
The scandal over the Bolivian politician was seen as the last straw in a string of diplomatic missteps for Patriota. The risky operation to remove Molina from La Paz appears to have occurred in the absence of a formal ambassador, which raised eyebrows at the Planalto, as Brazil’s ambassador to Bolivia was en route to Sweden, and his substitute was still awaiting to take office.
President Rousseff had reportedly been dissatisfied with the way Patriota handled Brazil’s last diplomatic imbroglio, when David Miranda, the Brazilian boyfriend of British journalist, Glenn Greenwald, who helped disclose the U.S. NSA’s massive spying program, was detained at London’s Heathrow Airport for nine hours two weeks ago.
According to government officials, Patriota’s tone in the whole affair had been diplomatic, but too cordial. The President met with Patriota for ninety minutes yesterday, when she is believed to have accepted his resignation.
In a statement circulated on Monday, her press office said that she had “accepted the resignation of minister Antonio Aguiar de Patriota, and named the representative of Brazil at the United Nations in New York, ambassador Luiz Alberto Figuereido, the new Foreign Relations Minister.”
The federal government has vowed to open an administrative disciplinary lawsuit to investigate Molina’s entry into Brazil.