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Brazilian Foreign Minister Quits Over Bolivian Politician's Escape

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota resigned on Monday amid escalating tensions with La Paz after a Bolivian Opposition politician fled his homeland with the help of a Brazilian diplomat.

Patriota stepped down after meeting with President Dilma Rousseff and was promptly replaced by Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, head of the Brazilian mission to the United Nations, media reports said quoting 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 President Evo Morales, to Brazil last Friday after the latter was holed up for 15 months at the Brazilian Embassy in the Bolivian capital.

Describing his action as a "personal decision," Saboia told Brazil's Globo television that he chose life. "I chose to protect a person, a persecuted politician." The diplomat's adventure has embarrassed both Brazil and Bolivia.

Pinto, who was wanted by Bolivian authorities for corruption and other charges, arrived in Brasilia on Monday after a three-day drive from La Paz to the Brazilian border with an Embassy car escorted by Brazilian marines, the reports said.

Incensed over the politician's escape, the Bolivian government said the incident would hurt relations between the two neighboring Latin American 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.

A right wing politician, Pinto had earned the wrath of Morales alleging corruption against him. Facing a corruption investigation himself, he then sought asylum at the Brazilian Embassy, which was granted in June 2012.

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

The Bolivian Foreign Minister described the assisted escape of Pinto as "transgression of the principle of reciprocity and international courtesy."

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