Bolivia’s self-declared interim president Jeanine Anez announced Monday that the country will expel Mexico’s ambassador and two Spanish diplomats, escalating a diplomatic row over an alleged attempt to extract an ex-government aide.
“The constitutional government that I preside over has decided to declare persona non grata the ambassador of Mexico in Bolivia, Maria Teresa Mercado, the charge d’affaires of Spain, Cristina Borreguero, and the (Spanish) consul, Alvaro Fernandez,” Anez said.
The announcement came after Bolivia accused Spanish embassy staff of trying to infiltrate the Mexican mission in La Paz with a group of masked men to extract a wanted former aide of ex-president Evo Morales, which Madrid sharply denied.
Morales – who was deposed in a military coup in November after weeks of unrest over his controversial re-election – has been accused of sedition and terrorism by the de facto government that came to power after his ouster.
He is now living in exile in Argentina and has denounced the charges against him as baseless.
The Organization of American States accused Morales’ government of manipulating the results of the October election, though their findings have been disputed by some independent analysts.
The Mexican embassy in La Paz became the center of the diplomatic row after it sheltered nine or more officials from Morales’s former government.
People associated with Morales and his MAS (Movement Toward Socialism) party were targeted by right-wing mobs during the post-election unrest. A female, indigenous MAS mayor was doused in red paint and paraded through the streets, while others, including Morales, had their homes ransacked or burned.
Both Spain and Mexico said the incident occurred on Friday when Borreguero paid a brief visit to Mexico’s ambassador.
But Madrid issued a strongly worded denial over the alleged attempt to extract the former Morales aide.
“The ministry wishes to clarify that the charge d’affaires was purely making a courtesy visit and vehemently denies there was any aim to facilitate the exit of people holed up inside the building,” Spain’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
Anez, a radical right-wing evangelical, was not a candidate in the October presidential election and her party received only four percent of the vote.
Despite having no electoral mandate, her government has already made a series of significant policy shifts, including recognizing self-declared Venezualan interim president Juan Guaido.
It’s unclear at this time exactly when new elections will be held or who the major candidates will be.