By RICARDO CASTILLO
The conflicting crescendo of undiplomatic affairs between Mexico and Bolivia took unexpected proportions on Monday, Dec. 30, as interim Bolivian President Jeanine Añez Chávez expelled Mexican Ambassador María Teresa Mercado as a “persona non grata.”
Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard immediately appointed the current head of the embassy Ana Luisa Vallejo as Mercado’s ad interim substitute.
There were two reasons for Mercado’s expulsion: her “friendly meeting” with Spanish Consul Alvaro Fernández and her aired video of drones flying high over the embassy.
In an exchange of niceties, the government of Spain responded by expelling the business, military and police attachés of the Bolivian Embassy in Madrid.
Mexico has not yet responded with expulsions, but things seem headed for the worse as the Mexican Embassy in La Paz is slated to move out of its current facility to a new one because its current rental lease ends on Tuesday, Dec. 31, when the Mexican diplomatic mission has to finish moving all of its assets.
The problem now is that acting Chargé d’Affaires Vallejo inherited nine high-level officials from the ousted Evo Morales administration and the Bolivian government is unwilling to grant them transfer permits because it would rather arrest them for alleged crimes committed from what Añez calls “the Morales dictatorship.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) Ebrard have both called on the transition government to respect the rights of the Mexican government to grant asylum to anyone who seeks it, as it has done with the members of Morales’ former cabinet.
Añez accused the diplomats of “gravely damaging the sovereignty and dignity of the people of Bolivia and the constitutional government of Bolivia.”
She added that the Spaniards, in particular, showed “a hostile conduct in trying to enter in a surreptitious and clandestine manner the residence of Mexico in Bolivia.”
Allegedly, the Spanish diplomats tried to remove former Presidential Minister Juan Ramón Quintana, Morales’ closest ally, since both came to power on 2006. Bolivia sent Spain a strong diplomatic message, but the allegation was flatly denied by the Spanish government.
Some of the personnel accompanying Fernández on his visit to the Mexican Embassy in La Paz wore masks and were allegedly armed. Their vehicle was detained by Bolivian police for about one hour before they were allowed into the Mexican Embassy complex on Sunday. Dec. 29.
A new problem arising from the expulsion of Ambassador Mercado is that the nine people who were granted asylum are not located inside the embassy facility, but at her residence. She has requested transport safeguards for all of them, but the Bolivian government has not issued them.
In Mexico, Ebrard called the expulsion of the diplomats by Añez Chávez “a political move” and ordered Mercado to return home “immediately” since she was granted a 72-hour period to leave Bolivia.
The international rift came with the video admission by the regional opponent of Morales, Luis Fernando Camacho Vaca, aka “El Macho,” that he had coordinated with the police and the army to force the exit of Morales from the presidency last Nov. 10, giving Morales, now residing in Argentina, new ammo to claim that “this irrefutably proves” that his overthrowwas “a coup d’état.”
For now the entire affair is a veritable imbroglio of gossip and hearsay, with cross accusations flung all over the place.
Happy New Year, Bolivia!