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Peru will give Chile details of spy claims

Peruvian President Alan Garcia says he wants explanations from Chile amid an espionage investigation.
Peruvian President Alan Garcia says he wants explanations from Chile amid an espionage investigation.
  • Peruvian president says Chile spied on neighbor because of inferiority complex
  • Peruvian officials ordered to turn over evidence of espionage to Chile
  • Spy suspect, Peruvian air force officer, remains in prison north of Lima
  • Chile has dismissed allegations
  • Peru
  • Chile
  • Alan Garcia
  • Michelle Bachelet

Lima, Peru (CNN) -- Peru will turn over to Chilean authorities all evidence into allegations that a Peruvian air force officer was spying for the neighboring country, Peruvian President Alan Garcia said Monday.

Garcia ordered his foreign minister and justice department to hand over all details of the investigation so Chile could "give the corresponding explanations," he said in a televised address.

The alleged spying by Chile, Garcia declared, was the result of fear and an inferiority complex by the Chileans. He added that Peru will not let the incident become a full-blown crisis between the two nations.

The suspect, Victor Ariza Mendoza, remained imprisoned at a maximum security facility north of Lima, authorities said.

Two other Peruvian air force officers, accused of being collaborators, also were detained, as were two Chilean military officers who were alleged accomplices, CNN en Español reported.

Mendoza could face charges of treason, which carry a minimum sentence of 25 years.

News of the spy case caused Garcia to prematurely end a trip to Singapore for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

Garcia and his Chilean counterpart, Michelle Bachelet, had planned to attend a workshop Saturday with other world leaders, but the Peruvian leader canceled his agenda to return to Lima.

Chile has dismissed the espionage allegations.

"Chile has nothing to do with this case," Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez told reporters after a meeting with his nation's ambassador to Peru.

According to local media, the suspected spy once worked at the Peruvian Embassy in Chile and sold secrets to the Chileans since 2002, CNN en Español reported.

Chile and Peru have a history of animosity, having fought in the War of the Pacific from 1879 to 1883. Hard feelings linger to this day.

The two nations nearly came to war in 1975, when left-wing Peruvian leader Juan Velasco, who was backed by Cuba, wanted to invade Chile, which was led by right-wing Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The invasion was called off, and Velasco was deposed in a coup a short while later. Tensions rose again when Peru discovered a Chilean spy mission, but war was averted.

More recently, tensions between the two South American nations flared in December after the revelation that Peru's top army general said at a party that Chileans in Peru would be sent back in coffins or body bags.

Both countries said they would work to heal relations after the general's comments.

Journalist Gisu Guerra contributed to this report.