Diplomatic rift between Venezuela and Peru has widened amid President Hugo Chavez's repeated support for a leftist Peruvian presidential candidate, but both sides tried to avoid further escalation of the crisis.
Relations between the two countries spiraled down amid escalated war of words as Peru announced on Saturday the withdrawal of its ambassador from Caracas for the second time this year, accusing President Hugo Chavez of meddling in Peru's election campaign.
"The Peruvian government has decided to withdraw its ambassador to the Republic of Venezuela with immediate effect due to its persistent and flagrant interference in Peru's domestic affairs," the Peruvian Foreign Ministry said.
The decision came as a result of "the repeated statements made by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about the Peruvian electoral process and the ones made today about President Alejandro Toledo," the ministry statement said.
However, Venezuela said Sunday it would not match Peru's decision with an immediate withdrawal of its ambassador even though Peru had called back its ambassador from Caracas.
"We will not reciprocate. We will give our ambassador instructions to stay in Lima," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque told state television VTV, adding that the envoy was told to be wary of further "`provocations."
Meanwhile, Peruvian Foreign Minister Oscar Maurtua said on Sunday that Peru was not breaking diplomatic relations with Venezuela, but the withdrawal of its ambassador was a "very serious" repudiation of Chavez's remarks.
His country was left with no choice due to Chavez's remarks on Peru's internal affairs, said Maurtua.
"It was a hard decision to take, but we thought about it very carefully," Maurtua told the RPP radio. "I'm confident that an attitude of equanimity will persist."
A left-wing populist who is rallying Latin American nations against U.S. influence, Chavez openly voiced support for Garcia's nationalist opponent, leftist populist Ollanta Humala, who won the first round of the presidential elections on April 9 and will face Garcia in a runoff on May 28.
Garcia last week called Chavez a spoiled child for criticizing Lima's entry to a free-trade pact with Washington.
Chavez responded by accusing Garcia of being "corrupt," "shameless" and a "thief," and threatened to withdraw Venezuela's ambassador if Garcia is elected.
In January, Peru recalled its ambassador for a short time as Chavez voiced support for Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala ahead of the country's April 9 elections.