Withdrawing of Venezuela ambassador to Panama

Venezuela has recalled its ambassador to Panama to protest comments by the outgoing Panamanian president regarding her reasons for pardoning four men convicted in a plot to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. President Mireya Moscoso said she feared the men could be executed if they were extradited to Venezuela or Cuba by her successor. The latest diplomatic crisis follows a presidential pardon for four Cubans convicted of plotting to kill President Fidel Castro during an inter-American summit in 2000. President Moscoso said she released the four Cubans for humanitarian reasons, because she feared the new administration, headed by Martin Torrijos, son of the late General Omar Torrijos, a close friend of Mr. Castro, would extradite them to Venezuela or Cuba, where she said they could be executed. Flavio Granados, Venezuela's ambassador to Panama said that he was ordered home because Mrs. Moscosoґs statement was a "serious and false accusation" against his country. He said there is no death penalty in Venezuela, even "for terrorists that have been pardoned." Mr. Granados also said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would not participate in the swearing in ceremonies for President-elect Martin Torrijos, which are scheduled for September first, informs VOANews. According to CNN, the island's government earlier had said that such a move would automatically sever relations between the two countries Moscoso, who hands over the presidency on September 1 to Martin Torrijos, had earlier denied Cuban government claims that she planned to pardon the four exiles. Expressing anger at the tone of Cuban complaints, she withdrew her country's ambassador from the island this week and ordered the Cuban ambassador here to leave. The four Cuban exiles include Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative who Cuba said led the plan to kill Castro at a summit meeting here in November 2000. Cuba earlier had protested the seven- and eight-year prison sentences imposed on the men, saying they were not tough enough. But Panamanian courts ruled there was not enough evidence to accuse the men of attempted murder or on other serious charges such as possession of explosives. Posada and Cuban-American Gaspar Jimenez were sentenced to eight years for endangering public safety and falsifying documents. Cuban-Americans Guillermo Novo and Pedro Remon got seven years for endangering public safety. The defendants maintained they were in Panama to help a Cuban general who supposedly had planned to seek political asylum. Venezuela recalled its ambassador from Panama Friday in protest at comments by Panama's outgoing leader about the pardon of four Cuban exiles who plotted to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro in 2000, reports Reuter. Panama's conservative President Mireya Moscoso freed the four Thursday on humanitarian grounds, saying they would be killed if they were extradited to Cuba or Venezuela. Cuba Thursday cut diplomatic ties with Panama in protest. Havana had demanded the men be extradited to Cuba and one of them, prominent anti-Castro activist Luis Posada, was wanted by the government of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close friend and ally of Cuba's Communist leader. Venezuela's Deputy Foreign Minister Arevalo Mendez told reporters in Caracas Friday his country was withdrawing its ambassador to Panama, Flavio Granados, in protest at Moscoso's remarks. He called them "offensive ... false, tendentious."

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