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The Diplomatic Incident Between Mexico And Bolivia Has Intensified With One Bolivian Official Calling AMLO A ‘Cowardly Thug’

What started as a dispute over asylum status for nine supporters of former Bolivian President Evo Morales has now spiraled out of control into a full international crisis.

Bolivia’s interim government initially contested Mexico’s decision to grant asylum to Evo Morales who fled the country. But it was Mexico’s granting of asylum to nine former Morales’ supporters within the Mexican embassy in La Paz that has started this entire diplomatic row. Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Minister complained that the embassy was ‘under siege’ as Bolivian security forces surrounded the complex.

This situation grew even larger on Friday, as Spain was pulled into the confrontation.

The diplomatic crisis between Mexico and Bolivia has now even pulled in the likes of Spain into the chaos.

The diplomatic situation between Bolivia and Mexico continues to reach new lows. According to Bolivian Foreign Minister Karen Longaric, Spanish diplomats visiting the Mexican compound were joined by masked and armed men. She called that a brazen attack on Bolivian sovereignty and said she’d lodge a complaint with the United Nations.

The interim government already has been feuding with Mexico, which not only gave refuge to the nine, but also sheltered ousted leader Evo Morales when he resigned the presidency on November 10 after losing the support of the military and police following days of turbulent protests over alleged fraud in his reelection bid.

The Mexican embassy in La Paz is housing nine opponents to the current Bolivian government and the government is intensifying police presence around the building.

Embassies have a different jurisdictional status in the countries that house them compared to normal office buildings of houses. According to international law and agreements, security forces in the host country do not have full rights to enter embassies as they are considered de facto territories of the guest nations.

This is why when someone is fearing for their life or escaping the law on a matter that they deem unjust, some countries decide to open its embassies for political dissidents and activists. We can think, for example, of the super famous Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who spent years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Now supporters of Evo Morales are seeking refuge in foreign embassies of countries whose governments were politically aligned with Morales, such as AMLO’s government in Mexico.

Nine Bolivians are now housed in the Mexican embassy in La Paz, but the new government has increased police presence around the building, making staff feel threatened and basically holding the embassy under siege.

As AAP indicates: “Since Monday, Mexico has accused the new conservative Bolivian government of heightening the police presence outside the embassy in La Paz and intimidating its staff”. 

The situation is so tense that Mexico is taking matters to the international court of The Hague.

Mexico’s highest ranking diplomatic official, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, has gotten involved. As the Australian Associated Press reports: “Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told a regular news briefing on Thursday that his government was appealing to the court, based in The Hague, to mediate in the dispute, which centres on Mexico’s decision to grant asylum to nine people at its embassy.”

Ebrard weighed what is at stake in this matter, which could set a precedent in terms of what the interim government of Bolivia, a far-right coalition, might do. He said: “What is in between here is the integrity of a representation of Mexico, it is our territory. In addition to calling into question the right to asylum.”

Mexican president AMLO was also quick to weigh in: “Let us hope that the right of asylum will be reconsidered, the right to be respected, and it will deviate from any temptation to take or violate our sovereignty, by wanting to penetrate the Mexican embassy in Bolivia.” He also said that not even Pinochet acted that way, referring to the Chilean far-right dictator who ruled over the South American country with an iron fist.  

But of course the response from his Bolivian counterpart was quick to come… 

Bolivian officials have blasted Mexico’s move, claiming that Mexico asked for increased security in the first place.

Bolivia’s chancellor, Karen Longaric, has criticized Mexico’s move, saying: “No one can forward claims for actions that are not proved or based on assumptions voiced by the Mexican Foreign Ministry.” She said that it was Mexican officials themselves who asked for increased security when massive protests erupted and violence in the streets of La Paz became commonplace for weeks.

According to Sputnik News Service: “Longaric pointed out the interim government’s commitment to international law and reassured that the country’s leadership would never order security forces to enter the embassy’s territory without the due permission of the diplomatic mission.” 

In the meantime, Evo Morales has accused the United States of orchestrating a coup to oust him and to dig into the country’s lithium reserves.

Credit: Robert Sieland

In the meantime, Evo Morales, the ousted president, told AFP that big mining money is behind the change of government. He said: “It was a national and international coup d’etat. Industrialised countries don’t want competition.”

From Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he is currently living in exile, Morales said that his government was seeking Chinese and Russian investment to mine the vast reserves of lithium that lay under Bolivian soil. The United States, he believes, did not want the competition and wants to mine the reserves themselves. Lithium is key for the manufacturing of computers and mobile devices, and an extremely coveted commodity in the digital age. 

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