- The Gabonese Presidency has dismissed the charges made by the government of Peru, regarding President Omar Bongo's alleged sexual harassment of Miss Peru, Ivette Santa María, while in Libreville. The Presidency declared it was "astonished" and "indignant" by the accusations.
According to a statement issued by the office of President Bongo, the Gabonese government held the Peruvian charges to be a "denigration campaign" and "attempts at destabilisation." These "defamatory" accusations only had the aim of "harming the reputation of Gabon and its President," the statement read.
Peru's Ambassador to the UN earlier this week tabled a formal protest to his Gabonese counterpart following accusations of sexual harassment made by Ms Santa María against President Bongo. The Peruvian government had demanded "an explanation" to what it called "illicit trafficking" of persons by the Gabonese government.
The strong reaction in the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs came after Ms Santa María told international media she had been treated as a prostitute during a visit to the Libreville presidential palace. Ms Santa María said she was taken "to a place where there is a button" by President Bongo. "He pushes the button and there appears - a bed!" she continued.
The Peruvian beauty however added that, when she had indicated to President Bongo that she was not up to a sexual adventure, the Gabonese Head of State had let her go. "Mr Bongo "at no moment was aggressive, but was as uncomfortable as I was," she told the press.
The Peruvian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Manuel Rodríguez Cuadros, nevertheless ordered his Ambassador to the UN, Alfonso Rivero, to express his country's "serious concern" with his Gabonese counterpart. Mr Rivero thus accused the Gabonese government of "illicit trafficking" of persons.
The Gabonese Presidency on the other hand denies the entire story told by Ms Santa María, emphasising its "astonishment and its indignation" regarding the Peruvian charges. While confirming the presence of Miss Peru in Libreville, the Presidency terms the rest of Ms Santa María's story as a fraud attempt.
The Gabonese presidency further confirms that "in an unexpected and unfriendly way, the Chargé d'Affaires of Gabon in the United Nations was convened by the representative of Peru at the UN to be given a letter of protest about this embarrassing business." The whole matter was an "attempt of destabilisation" ahead of next year's presidential elections in Gabon, the Presidency's statement concluded.
While the affair has had large international press coverage - in particular in Peru, where the story of Ms Santa María is presented as trustworthy - it has been hushed down in Gabon. Local media printing the accusations along with all foreign media were banned from the streets of Libreville. The rumour is however out.
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