LA PAZ – Bolivia’s interim government declared on Monday Spanish diplomats Cristina Borreguero and Alvaro Fernandez, and Mexican Ambassador to Bolivia Maria Teresa Mercado, as well as several other officials, personae non gratae and gave them 72 hours to leave the country in response to an incident that occurred last week.
“This group of representatives of the governments of Mexico and Spain have seriously harmed the sovereignty of the people and constitutional government of Bolivia,” interim President Jeanine Añez said during an appearance at the Government Palace.
The diplomats were ordered to leave the country in the wake of an incident last Friday in which Bolivian officials said Spanish Embassy personnel accompanied by “hooded men” went to Mercado’s residence, where several former Cabinet ministers who served under former President Evo Morales are staying.
The Bolivian government has accused the former Morales administration officials of engaging in acts of terrorism.
Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state, left the country following a disputed presidential election.
On Nov. 10, the Organization of American States (OAS) released a report recommending that a new presidential election be held due to the irregularities in the Oct. 20 vote that Morales won.
After the opposition disputed the election’s outcome, Morales said a new vote would be held.
Morales, who was seeking a fourth term in office and had served as president for nearly 14 years, resigned under pressure from the security forces and is now living in exile in Argentina.
Añez read an official statement declaring Mercado and the other diplomats personae non gratae and ordering them to leave Bolivia “within a period of 72 hours.”
The interim president said Bolivia “is not anyone’s colony” and called on other countries to respect the process that led to the return of democracy “after 14 years of dictatorship,” a reference to Morales’s ouster last month.
The Spanish government responded to Añez’s announcement by ordering three Bolivian diplomats accredited in Spain to leave the country.
The Spanish Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it made the move in response to the “hostile gesture” by Bolivia.
The Spanish government said the Andean nation’s interim government should “de-escalate the content of its statements and use good sense to regain confidence and cooperation” in bilateral relations “as soon as possible.”
The Mexican Foreign Relations Secretariat, for its part, said it instructed Mercado to return home.
“The government of Mexico has noted the communication in which the ambassador was declared persona non grata,” the secretariat said, adding that it told the diplomat to return to her country for her own safety.
Bolivia’s interim foreign minister, Karen Longaric, told reporters that her country’s decision to expel the diplomats “does not imply a rupture in diplomatic relations” with Mexico or Spain.
Longaric said Bolivia wanted Madrid and Mexico City to accredit new diplomats, replacing those who “violated the sovereignty and showed disrespect for Bolivian rules.”
The interim foreign minister said Bolivia had “no other option but to invoke the Vienna Convention and ask them to leave Bolivian territory.”
On Friday, the Bolivian government accused the Spanish Embassy in La Paz of “trampling” on its sovereignty during the incident, in which Spanish personnel apparently rode in official vehicles “hooded” and “presumably armed.”
Bolivia interpreted the incident as an attempt by foreign diplomats to spirit away the former Cabinet ministers.
Bolivian police continue watching Mercado’s residence and other Mexican diplomatic facilities, a situation described by the government in Mexico City as a “siege.”