afrol News, 5 February - The diplomatic services of Gabon and Peru are engaged in high-level fighting after the public accusations of Miss Peru against Gabonese President Omar Bongo. The Peruvian beauty claims to have been "treated as a prostitute" by the Gabonese Head of State, causing Peru's diplomats to take action.
Ivette Santa María, the current Miss Peru, was on an official mission to Gabon, where she claims to have been sexually harassed by President Bongo. While Gabonese authorities forcefully deny these accusations, Peru's Ambassador to the UN has tabled a formal protest to his Gabonese counterpart.
Ms Santa María recently visited Gabon, on an official invitation to act as hostess in a national beauty pageant. According to the Peruvian señorita, her Gabon deal included a US$ 1000 payment each week, a luxury hotel room and a possibility of reaching publicity agreements with local business.
Nevertheless, during her stay, the 22-year-old Ms Santa María claims to have been totally surprised by receiving an invitation to the Presidential Palace, including an audience with President Bongo. The 67-year-old state leader, in power since 1967, had however confused her with something she isn't, according to the version of Ms Santa María.
- As we were left alone, communicating by signals, or be it, without understanding each other because he neither speaks English nor Spanish, he takes me to a place where there is a button, Ms Santa María explains her version of the story. "He pushes the button and there appears - a bed! I got scared and tried to explain him why I was here," the Peruvian Miss said in a declaration to the press.
According to her own explanation, she managed to explain to President Bongo she was not into prostitution and was happy to note that Mr Bongo "at no moment was aggressive, but was as uncomfortable as I was. It was all very confusing." She adds that she at no moment was held involuntarily at the Presidential Palace.
When she returned to the hotel, the organisers of the pageant and Gabonese government officials had "apologised" for "any misunderstanding", according to Ms Santa María. Without money to pay the hotel bill, however, she was stranded in Libreville for 12 days until an international women's group and others had intervened. Only today, she reached Bogotá (Colombia), heading further to Peru.
As the tales of Ms Santa María reached government offices in the Peruvian capital, Lima, the Foreign Ministry was quick to act. Foreign Minister Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros ordered his Ambassador to the UN, Alfonso Rivero, to express his country's "serious concern" with his Gabonese counterpart, according to the Ministry.
Mr Rivero demanded "an explanation" to what he called "illicit trafficking" of persons by the Gabonese government. According to the Peruvian government, the Gabonese government through its UN Ambassador has "rejected" the accusations made by the Peruvian Miss.
The tales of President Bongo's alleged "misunderstanding" of Ms Santa María's mission has created strong reactions in Peru - were pageants are national events - and Gabon. According to reports from the US agency AP, at least two opposition newspapers have already been shut down in Gabon and French newspapers were banned temporarily after reporting on the alleged scandal.
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