December 27, 2019

Mexico says Bolivia blocked Spanish diplomats cars at La Paz embassy amid deepening diplomatic row
Mexico's government has accused Bolivian police of blocking Spanish officials from leaving the Mexican ambassador's residence on Friday, deepening a growing diplomatic row between the two countries. Two Spanish diplomats were about to leave the Mexican ambassador's residence in La Paz when they were told their cars had been detained some minutes away and would not be allowed to re-enter the compound, Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement. Karen Longaric, Bolivia's foreign minister, complained that Spanish diplomats were accompanied by masked and armed men on a visit to the residence, calling that an abuse of Bolivia's sovereignty. She said a protest would be lodged with the European Union, United Nations and Organization of American States. Television stations broadcast images of a masked person getting out of a Spanish diplomatic vehicle and exchanging words with local police. Civilians then approached and began attacking the car, shouting that there could be an attempt to free nine officials sheltered inside. Mexico says Bolivian authorities have harassed and intimidated its diplomatic staff in a row that erupted over the Mexican government's decision to grant asylum to nine people, now housed in its diplomatic facilities in La Paz. Some of them are wanted by Bolivia's new conservative administration. Jeanine Añez, Bolivia's interim president, took power last month when long-serving socialist leader Evo Morales resigned and fled to Mexico City after a presidential election that the Organization of American States said was rigged in his favour. Mr Morales's acceptance of an offer of political asylum from the leftist Mexican government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador strained ties with Ms Añez, an opponent of Mr Morales. On Friday, Mexico's ambassador eventually made contact with Bolivia's foreign ministry, which urged the diplomats to exit the premises and walk back to their cars, but they refused to do so without their security details, the statement added. In the end, the two diplomats were collected by a car sent by the Bolivian foreign ministry over an hour later, it said. “The right to asylum has to be guaranteed,” President López Obrador said on Friday. “We hope they act sensibly and they don’t invade our diplomatic representation in Bolivia. Not even Pinochet did that.” Ms Longaric told a news conference that the Spanish diplomats were accompanied on arrival by men with their faces covered trying to enter the residence surreptitiously. As diplomatic personnel are not allowed to conceal their identities, police stopped the masked men going in, she said. "There was an evident threat to the security of the Mexican mission," she said. The Mexican statement did not mention the masked men. Spain's embassy in Bolivia did not immediately respond to a request for comment. According to the Bolivian government, Juan Ramon Quintana, a former senior aide to Mr Morales, is among the nine people who have taken asylum in the Mexican embassy. Bolivia's government has not named all of the nine inside. Those who have been identified, including Mr Quintana, are allies of Mr Morales wanted by the government for crimes including sedition and armed revolt. Mr Morales left Mexico this month and is now in Argentina. According to Mexico's government, Bolivia has issued arrest warrants for at least four of the people inside its embassy. On Thursday, Mexico said it was asking the International Court of Justice to mediate in the dispute.
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