Mexico president urges Bolivia to respect right of asylum

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Mexico has urged Bolivia’s new conservative government to respect its right to grant asylum to nine people at its embassy in La Paz, days after complaining that Bolivian government surveillance there has grown excessive.

“The right of asylum must be guaranteed,” Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday during his daily news conference when asked about the disagreement.

On Thursday, Mexico said it was asking the International Court of Justice to mediate in the dispute, which has chilled relations between the two Latin American countries.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign minister, said the buildup of Bolivian security agents around the Mexican ambassador’s residence violates international treaties regarding the rights and protections for diplomatic personnel and installations.

Bolivian agents surrounding the residence appear to threaten Mexico’s right to give asylum to nine former officials of former president Evo Morales, Ebrard said.

He said Bolivian authorities had refused to allow any of the nine to leave the country.

Bolivian Foreign Minister Karen Longaric said Mexico’s ambassador, Maria Teresa Mercado, had previously asked “in verbal and written form for security around the diplomatic facility to be increased because of hostility” from protesters.

“They are going to have to take this (accusation) back, because no police force has entered or violated any diplomatic area, nor will they,” Longaric said.

The South American nation’s foreign ministry later issued a statement expressing “deep concern over Mexico’s interference in Bolivia’s internal affairs” but saying it is open to talks.

Troops gathered in larger numbers around the residence beginning Tuesday, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said. It also said drones were flying over its ambassador’s residence and that it had summoned the top Bolivian diplomat in Mexico to “explain the actions of Bolivian officials”.

 Karen Longaric
Bolivia’s Head of the Foreign Ministry Karen Longaric said the police had not ‘entered or violated any diplomatic area’ [David Mercado/Reuters] 

Relations between the two countries have been strained since Mexico granted asylum to Morales after he resigned on November 10 following a national upheaval over his claim of victory in an election marred by vote-rigging.

Morales has since relocated to Argentina and says he plans to stay involved in politics in neighbouring Bolivia, while some former top aides remain holed up in the Mexican ambassador’s residence.

But Morales’ statements in Mexico – in which he appeared to organize or encourage protesters – angered Bolivian officials.

“Let’s see who is violating international treaties,” said Bolivian Interior Minister Arturo Murillo. “Is it us, who are protecting the Mexican embassy against threats, or Mexico, who allows Morales to break the rules and say whatever he wants.”

Willson Santamaria, Bolivia’s deputy minister of public security, said the Morales loyalists would not be allowed to leave the country.

Bolivia’s government, headed by interim President Jeanine Anez, a conservative former senator, took power last month after Morales fled to Mexico.

According to the Bolivian government, a former senior aide to Morales, Juan Ramon Quintana, is among the nine people who have taken asylum in the Mexican embassy.

The Bolivian government has not named all of the nine people inside the embassy. Those who have been identified, including Quintana, are allies of Morales wanted by the government for crimes including sedition and armed revolt.

According to Mexico’s government, Bolivia has issued arrest warrants for at least four of the people inside the Mexican embassy and says they must face justice.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES/ Al Jazeera

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