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Peru says no sign of Venezuelans sought by Maduro over drone blasts

Peru says no sign of Venezuelans sought by Maduro over drone blasts
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a meeting with ministers at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela August 13, 2018. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS   -   Copyright  HANDOUT(Reuters)
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LIMA (Reuters) – Peru’s top immigration official said Friday that two Venezuelan civilians whom Caracas alleges were involved in recent drone blasts during a speech by President Nicolas Maduro do not appear to have set foot in Peru.

This week, Venezuela asked Peru to find two of its citizens in connection with what Caracas has called an assassination attempt against Maduro. It also asked Peru to find six military officials considered fugitives in Venezuela.

“With respect to the first two, no migratory entry or exit from our country has been registered,” Migrations Superintendent Eduardo Sevilla told a news conference. Peru will check if the military officials have entered Peru and proceed in accordance with “the laws in place,” Sevilla added, without offering specifics.

Maduro’s government has accused opposition politicians and activists abroad of scheming to assassinate him with drones that were laden with explosives during a military parade earlier this month.

Fourteen people have been arrested. Maduro’s critics say he is using the incident to stifle dissent and cement his power in the oil-rich nation.

Peru has been a leading critic of Maduro’s government in recent years. It was unclear if Peru would detain and turn over any Venezuelan citizens at Maduro’s request.

Nearly 400,000 Venezuelans are now in Peru, the majority of whom have entered the Andean nation of some 32 million people in recent months, according to official statistics.

Venezuelans have been fleeing their country because of a deep economic crisis that has been marked by shortages of food, medicine and other essentials.

But Peru will start requiring passports from Venezuelan migrants starting Aug. 25, a week after neighbouring Ecuador implements the same requirement, Interior Minister Mauro Medina said at Friday’s news conference.

Peru and Ecuador have allowed Venezuelans, as well as citizens of some other countries in the region, to enter their borders using national ID cards. The policy had given desperate Venezuelans an easier route out of their crisis-stricken homeland, where it can be difficult to obtain passports amid chronic shortages.

Medina said the change in policy aims to beef up security following a spate of crimes spotlighted in local media involving Venezuelans, some of whom had fake national ID cards.

“There’s no hostile or discriminatory attitude here,” Medina said. “What we want is to clearly identify every citizen that comes to our country.”

About 20 percent of Venezuelans now enter Peru without passports, according to the Interior Ministry.

It was unclear if Venezuelans seeking refugee status in Peru would have to present passports to enter the country.

(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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