LA PAZ – The bilateral relations of Bolivia with Mexico and Spain recently have followed separate tracks, those with Mexico City being stuck because it granted asylum to former Bolivian leader Evo Morales, and those with the European nation on a more even keel with a better chance for overcoming differences after the incident involving its diplomats in La Paz.
The problem arose with Mexico’s decision to grant asylum to about 10 former Morales administration officials who remain holed up in the Mexican ambassador’s residence in La Paz and the refusal of the government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to turn them over to the Bolivian justice system, which wants to bring them to trial for assorted crimes, including terrorism.
Academic and international affairs expert Alvaro del Pozo said that relations between Bolivia and Mexico are “at a stalemate” where neither of the parties is willing to bend in their positions, a situation that foreshadows a “complicated relationship” on the diplomatic level.
The breakdown became even more dire on Thursday when the Mexican government reiterated that it will maintain the asylum status of the Morales officials to which the Bolivian government has denied safe conduct, Del Pozo told EFE.
Former ministers Juan Ramon Quintana, Javier Zavaleta and Wilma Alanoca, along with other former officials, have remained in the Mexican diplomatic compound in La Paz since November, with police monitoring the site and awaiting orders to apprehend them.
Mexico, which initially granted Morales asylum until he decided to go to Argentina, where he has received refugee status, called the actions of the Bolivian security forces a “siege” that goes against international norms on diplomatic questions.
The Bolivian government has said that the embassy is being protected by its security forces because of requests made by the embassy itself.
Meanwhile, on Dec. 27, Spain wound up in a diplomatic brouhaha with Bolivia because of a visit two Spanish diplomats paid – accompanied by “masked” and “presumably armed” individuals – to the Mexican embassy, according to Bolivian authorities.
The incident, which was interpreted by Bolivia as an attempt to evacuate the former Morales ministers, led to the Bolivian government declaring Spanish diplomats Cristina Borreguero and Alvaro Fernandez personae non gratae, along with Mexican Ambassador Maria Teresa Mercado.
The decision was rejected by the European Union, which said that the expulsion of diplomatic officials is an “extreme and unfriendly” measure that should be reserved for very serious situations.
The Spanish government has consistently denied that it wanted to facilitate the exit of the former Bolivian officials, saying that the visit was a “courtesy” call and that the diplomats were accompanied by “security personnel” for their own protection.
Del Pozo said that the expulsion of the diplomats was necessary since so far there has been no “clear explanation” of the incident.
Despite that difficulty, he said that Bolivia’s intention was not to break relations with Spain but rather to question the actions of certain officials and to launch a “joint investigation.”
Bolivia designated Deputy Foreign Minister Gualberto Rodriguez to be its new charge d’affaires to Spain, a clear sign of rapprochement after a week of friction.