Despite diplomatic row, Mexico to remain steadfast on granting asylum in Bolivia

02/01/2020
|
19:30
|
Reuters
Despite diplomatic row, Mexico to remain steadfast on granting asylum in Bolivia
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during a news conference - Photo: Edgard Garrido/REUTERS

Despite diplomatic row, Mexico to remain steadfast on granting asylum in Bolivia

02/01/2020
19:30
Reuters
Mexico City
Monica Machicao, Daniel Ramos, Dave Sherwood, Dave Graham, Christian Plumb, David Gregorio, John Stonestreet & Will Dunham/REUTERS
-A +A
Mexican President López Obrador pledged to stick by his government’s decision to give asylum to several people in Mexico’s embassy in Bolivia, which has sparked a dispute with the interim administration in La Paz

On Thursday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador pledged to stick by his government’s decision to give asylum to several people in Mexico’s embassy in Bolivia, which has sparked a dispute with the interim administration in La Paz.

“It’s a matter of principle,” López Obrador told reporters at his regular news conference.

To hand over the people would mean abandoning what Mexico regards as a “sacred” right to grant asylum, he added.

Earlier this week, Bolivia expelled the Mexican ambassador to La Paz over the asylum spat, creating an awkward standoff for López Obrador, who has sought to avoid foreign entanglements and appears to have little to gain from a protracted spat.

“Getting into a fight with a ‘small’ country doesn’t do anything for him; on the contrary, it looks bad,” said Roy Campos, head of polling firm Consulta Mitofsky.

Have you heard about the tense relationship between Mexico and Bolivia?

Mexico has not ejected Bolivia’s ambassador in Mexico and López Obrador said he would not react to provocations.

Since Mexico gave asylum to Bolivia’s former socialist leader Evo Morales in November, relations have been rocky between the leftist López Obrador and the conservative government in La Paz headed by caretaker president Jeanine Añez

Mexico gave refuge to nine people in La Paz, some of whom the Añez government, which is gearing up for presidential elections, has described as criminals and wants to put on trial.

The Mexican government has accused the Añez administration of harassing and intimidating its diplomatic staff in La Paz.

On Monday, Bolivia gave Mexican ambassador Maria Teresa Mercado 72 hours to leave the country as tensions escalated over Mexico’s decision to grant asylum to several people described as criminals by the new interim Bolivian administration.

Did you know Mexico granted asylum to Bolivian ex-president Evo Morales?

Relations have been rocky between the leftist Lopez Obrador and the conservative government in La Paz headed by caretaker president Jeanine Anez since Mexico gave asylum to Bolivia’s former socialist leader Evo Morales last month.

Mexico cast its decision as a principled gesture on behalf of people at risk of political persecution and has accused the Bolivian government of harassing and intimidating its diplomatic staff in La Paz.

The Añez administration has likened Mexico’s attitude to that of colonial overlord meddling in Bolivia’s domestic politics.

Although the economy has stagnated and violence has hit record levels under López Obrador, he remains popular after just a year in office. The 66-year-old has blamed previous administrations for Mexico’s problems and says it will take time to transform the country after years of corruption and economic mismanagement.

Nevertheless, Morales’ sojourn in Mexico was ultimately negative for the president’s poll ratings, Mitofsky’s Campos said.

Morales resigned under pressure from Bolivia’s armed forces after a presidential election that the Organization of American States said was rigged in his favor.

Mexico’s embassy in Bolivia gave refuge to nine people, including Morales allies whom the Añez administration blames for stirring up violent protests and wants to put on trial.

Who overthrew  Bolivia's President Evo Morales' government and why?

Contradictions
Broadsides from Bolivia have caused offense in some quarters in Mexico, even among critics of Morales, whose tilt for a fourth term ignored the results of a 2016 referendum.

“The current Bolivian government is as indefensible as Evo’s bid to stay in power,” said Agustín Basave, a former leader of the opposition center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution. “It’s a clumsy and rude government with no idea of diplomacy.”

Last month, López Obrador acknowledged that Morales’s arrival in Mexico, who is now in Argentina, created a crisis for his government. But he has defended Mexico’s right to offer asylum and said he will not be provoked by insults.

Critics of López Obrador said his support for Morales not only undermined his commitment to non-intervention in other countries’ affairs but also to public sector austerity.

The decision to send a plane to fetch Morales from Bolivia and put up him and others at taxpayers’ expense did not look like Mexico was staying neutral, said Víctor Giorgana of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a former chairman of the lower house foreign relations committee.

Would you like to know more about the diplomatic row that led Bolivia to expel Mexican and Spanish diplomats?

Nor did the government look credible digging in its heels with Añez’s administration after it had meekly acquiesced to U.S. President Donald Trump’s demands that Mexico tightens its borders against illegal immigrants, Giorgana said.

Still, Heriberto Galindo, a former Mexican ambassador to Cuba and PRI member, said López Obrador had rightly upheld a proud tradition by giving Morales and his allies asylum.

It was Morales, said Galindo, who then aggravated tensions by continuing attacks on his Bolivian adversaries from Mexico.

On Monday, Mexico sought to contain tensions, saying it currently had no intention of breaking ties with Bolivia even as Spain, which has been drawn into the spat, expelled three Bolivian diplomats in a tit-for-tat move.

On Tuesday, the European Union said it was “deeply concerned” about Bolivia’s expulsion of Spanish officials caught up in an escalating diplomatic row between Mexico and the interim conservative administration in La Paz.

Have you heard Bolivia harasses and intimidates Mexican diplomats?

On Monday, Bolivian stand-in President Jeanine Añez said her administration had asked Mexican ambassador María Teresa Mercado and several Spanish officials to leave the country within 72 hours.

Añez said Bolivia expelled the Spanish diplomats because masked men posing a “security risk” had accompanied the officials on a visit to Mexico’s embassy in La Paz.

“Expelling diplomatic officials is an extreme and unfriendly measure that should be saved for grave situations,” the EU said in a statement.

The EU said it was “deeply concerned over the increasing diplomatic tension” and has demanded further explanation from the Añez government.

Bolivia’s disputed October election sparked widespread, often violent demonstrations. Morales resigned last month in the face of growing civil and military pressure. Añez took over by default and has made sharp policy shifts away from his socialist government, fraying ties with leftist allies in the region.

Morales claimed he was toppled in a right-wing “coup” and many of his allies have rallied behind him with the country headed for new elections in 2020.

Did you know Mexico will take legal action against Bolivia?

mp
 

Mantente al día con el boletín de El Universal