World / Politics

Bolivia boots Mexican ambassador, Spanish diplomats and security agents

AP

Bolivia’s interim president says her government is expelling the top Mexican diplomat in the country over an alleged attempt by members of Bolivia’s former government to leave their refuge in the Mexican Embassy with Spanish help and flee the country.

Bolivia has also declared two Spanish diplomats persona non grata and asked a group of Spanish security agents to leave as a result of the incident, and Spain expelled three Bolivian officials Monday in response.

Interim President Jeanine Anez said Ambassador Maria Teresa Mercado had been given 72 hours to leave the country.

The incident centers around a group of nine former officials in the government of deposed Bolivian President Evo Morales who sought refuge in the Mexican Embassy after Morales stepped down under pressure last month.

The acting Bolivian government has charged the former officials with sedition, terrorism and electoral fraud and has refused to allow them safe passage out of the country.

The Bolivian government has accused Spanish diplomats of trying to help the nine officials leave the Mexican Embassy on Friday and says the Spaniards arrived at the embassy accompanied by a group of hooded Spanish security agents. Spain has denied the charges.

“A serious violation has been committed against Bolivian sovereignty and democracy, which must be respected,” Anez said.

Bolivia declared two high-ranking Spanish diplomats persona non grata and six Spanish security officials departed Bolivia on Sunday after the Bolivian government asked them to leave.

Spain’s interim government said Monday that it was expelling three Bolivian diplomats accredited in Spain in response to Bolivia’s “hostile gesture.”

It said that Spain “categorically rejects any hint about the alleged willingness to interfere in the internal political affairs of Bolivia,” and called the allegations “conspiracy theories.”

A police union in Spain said that the agents from the national police force’s Special Operations Group, which provides diplomatic security, were partially masked Friday to protest their identities for their own security, a routine precaution.

The Mexican government said its diplomats in Bolivia had followed the principles of Mexican foreign policy and international law.

“We consider this to be a political decision,” the government said in a written statement.