Sanford lover breaks her silence, acknowledging affair

McClatchy NewspapersJune 28, 2009 

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The Argentine mystery woman who stole the heart of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford went public Sunday night for the first time since the news of the affair broke Wednesday, but was still able to keep up the air of mystery.

In an e-mail sent to a reporter for a Buenos Aires television station and read on the air Sunday night, Maria Belen Chapur tacitly acknowledged the affair that has torpedoed Sanford's political career and kept Argentina enthralled for the past several days. But she provided no details and said she wouldn't.

"Of my private life I won't speak, not now or in the future," she wrote, according to a version posted on the station's Web site. "It's been made public enough already, a fact that causes me terrible discomfort."

She said the publicity of her affair with Sanford had caused "great pain for me, my two children, my whole family and the good friends, men and women, whom I've gathered throughout my life and who have always been with me."

In her statement, Chapur, 41, said that the e-mails that first revealed the affair and were sent to McClatchy's The State newspaper in December were pirated around Nov. 24 from an old e-mail account maintained by an unnamed Argentine company. Chapur said she became aware that someone had hacked into the account soon after and contacted both the Argentine company and Microsoft, which operates the Hotmail e-mail service. She said the account was quickly shut down.

She said that in addition to The State, the e-mails also had been sent to a man who'd accompanied her on a trip to Brazil. Some news accounts have claimed that the man, who in one e-mail to Sanford Chapur said she did not love, may have leaked the e-mails, but she "categorically" denied that. "He is incapable of doing such a thing," she wrote. "Not only is he not the author of this perverse act, but he also was a victim."

She said, however, that she thinks she knows who leaked the e-mails, but would not reveal her suspicions because she does not have enough evidence to prove her case.

"I am not the judge of anyone. I leave that in God's hands," she wrote.

Until Sunday night, Chapur had remained completely hidden, and only a few details had trickled out about her life.

She is known to be a jogger who speaks English, French and Chinese and has two children. She is not believed to work but did work as an English translator for an Argentine television station several years ago.

"A lot of media have been after her during the last couple of days and she has chosen C5N to make her only public statement,” said the announcer from the Buenos Aires television station.

The station's owner, Daniel Hadad, is believed to be a friend of Chapur's.

The State did not publish the e-mails, whose authenticity the paper had not been able to verify, until Wednesday, after Sanford admitted that he was having an affair.

Chapur has remained unseen since the scandal despite the presence of dozens of photographers outside her apartment in Buenos Aires' upscale Palermo neighborhood. Those crowds had largely dissipated over the weekend.

So far, the only video of Chapur made public is a 2001 news report she filed to C5N from New York City a month after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sanford has been mostly cloistered with his family since Wednesday's press conference, although his wife Jenny has tartly said that she warned Sanford against returning to Argentina to see Chapur.

The scandal has prompted calls by even Republicans that Sanford ought to resign the governorship and has ruined whatever chances he had of running for president in 2012.

(Mase is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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(e-mail: tbridges(at)mcclatchydc.com.)

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