Bolivia Expels three Envoys in Tiff With Mexico and Spain Over Morales Aides

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Bolivia's interim government evicted three high-ranking Spanish and Mexican diplomats from the country on Monday, resulting in a diplomatic conflict caused by President Evo Morales' overthrow , escalated dramatically.

The president of the Bolivian caretaker, Jeanine Añez, gave the Mexican ambassador and the Spanish head of business and their consul in La Paz, the country's capital, 72 hours to leave the country, Mr. Morales.

"This group of representatives of the governments of Mexico and Spain has severely damaged the sovereignty and dignity of the people and the government of Bolivia," Ms. Añez said at a press conference Monday.

The Spanish government subsequently expelled three Bolivian diplomats on Monday. The Mexican Foreign Ministry described Bolivia's move as "political" but did not respond immediately.

Bolivia's surprising expulsions were Ms. Añez's latest and most drastic step in reshaping foreign and domestic policy since the successor of Mr. Morales in November. Mr. Morales fled to Mexico last month after resigning under pressure from street protesters and the military. He later traveled to Argentina.

Since taking over the presidency, Ms. Añez has kicked out hundreds of Cuban workers, stopped the formal recognition of Nicolás Maduro as President of Venezuela, started a legal crusade against top officials under Mr. Morales, and brought religious symbols back to Cuba with explicitly secular ceremonies State.

Your critics say these measures go far beyond their self-declared mission as caretaker to oversee new elections early next year.

Ms. Añez & # 39; Change in diplomatic relations could have permanent political and economic ramifications for the next president. Of particular concern would be a political conflict with Spain, a major investment partner whose government has helped mediate Ms. Añez's rise.

"Honestly, Bolivia can benefit very little from it in the long term," said Filipe Carvalho, a Washington-based risk analyst at Eurasia Group, a consulting firm. "These measures are counterproductive."

woman. Instead, Añez's diplomatic saber rattle serves a short-term political goal: to mobilize Mr. Morales' determined opponents before the elections. "This is a very polarized country, and some here really want to go back to the people who held power for 14 years."

Recent diplomatic tensions have increased tenfold by Mr. Morales' inner circle officials seeking asylum in the Mexican diplomatic premises in La Paz after the former president fled into exile. The caretaker government accused three of them of incitement and fraud and issued arrest warrants.

Añez administration officials said Mexico broke diplomatic standards by allowing asylum seekers to conduct political activities and move around in diplomatic vehicles. Left-wing President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was troubled by Bolivia when he temporarily granted asylum to Mr. Morales, an ally, and sent a military plane to pick him up in his Bolivian hiding place.

Tensions exploded outdoors last week after the Spanish government unexpectedly got involved. On Friday, two Spanish diplomats, driven by masked security officers, attempted to enter the Mexican ambassador's residence in La Paz, which raised suspicions that Spain was trying to quietly intervene in the standoff.

In an attempt to disperse the spit, the Spanish government sent a commission to investigate the episode without explaining why their officials had covered their faces and refused to come together to be reported to the Bolivian police.

Some residents and politicians were outraged and accused Spain, a former colonial power, of disrespect and arrogance.

"The days of Pizarro and Cortés are over," said Jorge Quiroga, a former President of Bolivia who is a prominent commentator. "Through these actions, they have thrown away decades of work to improve their image in the country."

Cesar Del Castillo contributed to reporting from La Paz, Bolivia, and Elisabeth Malkin from Mexico City.

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