Brazil’s foreign minister resigns amid tension

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s president named a new foreign minister Monday night following an embarrassing diplomatic maneuver involving neighboring Bolivia.

The resignation of Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota was announced in a terse, two-paragraph statement from the office of President Dilma Rousseff.

The same statement named Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, a career diplomat and most recently Brazil’s head of mission at the United Nations, as the new foreign minister. A Rousseff spokeswoman said Patriota would now take the top spot at the U.N.

The shake-up at Brazil’s foreign ministry came one day after Bolivian Sen. Roger Pinto was spirited into Brazil after spending 452 days in the Brazilian Embassy in Bolivia’s capital of La Paz.

Pinto, a member of Bolivia’s small right-wing opposition bloc in congress, accuses President Evo Morales’ government of corruption, though he has provided no evidence. He said he sought asylum in Brazil’s embassy after he and his family received death threats.

Bolivia’s government says Pinto’s exile is an opposition smear campaign against Morales. It accuses Pinto of corruption and wants him on criminal charges including economic damage to the state from when he was governor of the northern state of Pando, which borders Brazil.

Brazilian diplomat Eduardo Saboia, who was stationed at the embassy in La Paz, said he made the decision to smuggle Pinto into Brazil on Sunday because he thought the lawmaker was in mortal danger.

Speaking to Globo News on Monday, Saboia called Pinto a “politically persecuted person” and said he acted to save the senator’s life because his health was deteriorating.

The issue strained relations between Brazil and Bolivia. Brazil’s Foreign Ministry said earlier Monday that it was investigating the action, but rumors of Patriota’s resignation began surfacing in the Brazilian press a few hours before his exit was made official.

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