Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for South America

Newsline: U.S. to send ambassador to Bolivia for first time in over a decade

The United States intends to send an ambassador to Bolivia to help restore a “normal relationship” between the two countries, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale said in a video statement. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bolivia-usa/us-to-send-ambassador-to-bolivia-for-first-time-in-over-a-decade-idUSKBN1ZM2FL) The move, which would mark the return of a U.S. ambassador to La Paz for the first time in over a decade, underscores rapidly improving relations since the current interim government took over after the resignation of leftist leader Evo Morales. The United States has had a lower-ranking diplomat in the South American country since Morales ordered the last ambassador Philip Goldberg to leave in 2008, blaming him for opposition protests against his rule.

Newsline: US diplomatic staffer in Colombia is missing and presumed dead

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that an American staffer from the US Mission in Colombia is missing and presumed dead after a boating accident over the weekend. The top US diplomat, speaking alongside the Colombian president in Bogota, said the boating accident occurred on Saturday and that other government personnel had been involved. Some were rescued with “modest injuries” and one was airlifted to the US for treatment, Pompeo said. The missing worker’s next of kin had been notified, Pompeo said, but they were withholding the individual’s name for privacy considerations. A spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs told CNN that the employee was “on temporary assignment to the US Embassy in Bogota” and was “engaging in tourist activities in Cartagena” when the boating accident occurred. (https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/20/politics/us-mission-colombia-worker-dead-boating-accident/index.html) Colombian President Ivan Duque expressed his condolences over the accident. He said Navy, Coast Guard and local services were participating in search efforts for the body of the missing worker. According to a press release from the Colombian navy, the accident occurred near the Rosario Islands, off the coast of Cartagena. 11 of the 12 passengers in the boat were rescued, the release said.

Newsline: Guatemala’s new president cuts diplomatic ties with Venezuela

Guatemala’s new President Alejandro Giammattei cut diplomatic ties with the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday and ordered the closure of its embassy in Caracas. “We have instructed the foreign minister that the only person left in the embassy in Venezuela should return, and that we definitively end relations with the government of Venezuela,” Giammattei said. “We are going to close the embassy.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-guatemala-politics-venezuela/guatemalas-new-president-cuts-ties-with-venezuela-as-promised-idUSKBN1ZF2SB) The conservative Giammattei, who took office on Tuesday, had already indicated he would cut ties upon assuming power. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Rodriguez, in a response on Twitter, accused Giammattei of bowing down to the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump. “His government will surely become another bad joke,” Rodriguez wrote. “Our respect and affection for the people of Guatemala.”

Newsline: Bolivia prosecutor seeks Spain response over embassy spat

Bolivia’s attorney general has pushed forward a probe into Spanish officials the South American country’s government alleges were seeking to help allies of ousted leftist leader Evo Morales who are holed up in the Mexican embassy in La Paz. The prosecutor said it had sought information on why Spanish officials, on a December visit to the embassy in Bolivia, were accompanied by Spanish tactical police. The incident sparked a diplomatic stand-off and Bolivia expelled Mexico’s ambassador and several Spanish officials. Spain responded with a similar measure. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bolivia-diplomacy/bolivia-prosecutor-seeks-spain-response-over-embassy-spat-idUSKBN1Z8005) The affair has tested Bolivia’s caretaker government, which took power after Morales resigned under pressure in November after widespread protests, evidence of electoral fraud and waning support from military and police. The government of interim President Jeanine Anez claims that Spanish security forces had tried to hide their identity to gain access to the Mexican embassy, which granted asylum to Morales’ backers including former senior aide Juan Ramon Quintana.

Newsline: Iran summons Brazil’s charge d’affaires in Tehran after Soleimani comments

Iran has summoned Brazil’s Chargé d’Affaires in Tehran after the government in Brasilia expressed support for the United States in the “fight against the scourge of terrorism” following the death of an Iranian general in a U.S. drone strike. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-iran-brazil/iran-summons-brazils-charge-daffaires-in-tehran-after-soleimani-comments-idUSKBN1Z61IF) The killing of Qassem Soleimani, widely viewed as the second most powerful figure in Iran and the architect of its efforts to extend influence in the Middle East, has triggered a major escalation of tensions in the region. Washington considered him a terrorist responsible for the deaths of many Americans and others, but for many Iranians he was a national hero, and hundreds of thousands of people attended his funeral on Monday. “We inform you that Brazil’s Chargé d’Affaires in Tehran, and representatives of other countries that spoke about the events in Baghdad, were summoned by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, within the usual diplomatic practices,” the Brazilian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. The conversation was calm and cordial, it said, adding it would not comment on the details of the meeting. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro said on Tuesday the country rejected all forms of terrorism “anywhere in the world”. He also said Brazil would continue to trade with Iran and that he would speak with the foreign minister about Tehran’s decision to call in Brazil’s envoy.

Newsline: Spain orders Bolivian diplomats to leave

The Spanish government declared three Bolivian diplomats “personae non gratae”, after Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Anez, said the country would expel Mexico’s ambassador and two Spanish diplomats. Spain’s move came after Bolivia accused the Spanish diplomats of attempting to infiltrate the Mexican mission in the capital, La Paz, accompanied by masked men in order to extract the former aide to ex-president Evo Morales, who resigned in November after weeks of protests over corruption. “This group of representatives of the governments of Mexico and Spain have gravely injured the sovereignty and dignity of the Bolivian people and its constitutional government”, Anez said on 30 December, and gave the Mexican and Spanish diplomats 72 hours to leave the country. Previously, Mexico said it will file a complaint against the interim government of Bolivia at the International Court of Justice at The Hague. Its foreign ministry explained that the buildup of security agents around the Mexican ambassador’s residence violates his rights, established under international treaties. Spain has denied it tried to extract the former Morales aide. As a security measure, Spanish diplomats in their own country are sometimes accompanied by bodyguards wearing masks. “Spain categorically rejects any insinuation of presumed willingness to interfere in Bolivia’s internal political affairs”, the government said, and denied that “there was any aim to facilitate the exit of people holed up inside the building”. (https://www.neweurope.eu/article/spain-orders-bolivian-diplomats-to-leave/) Last month, Bolivia issued an arrest warrant for Morales, accusing him of “sedition, terrorism and the financing of terrorism”. He accepted Mexico’s offer of political asylum and stayed a month in there before moving to Argentina.

Newsline: Bolivia boots Spanish diplomats who visited Mexican mission

Spanish officials involved in a diplomatic incident left Bolivia amid accusations that they tried to help former high-ranking members of deposed President Evo Morales’ administration exit the country. Bolivian Interior Minister Arturo Murillo asked the Spaniards to leave even though Spain denied allegations that diplomat Cristina Borreguero and five of her colleagues were trying to help the officials out of the Mexican ambassador’s residence, where they have been holed up since Morales stepped down last month. (https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/world/article/Bolivia-boots-Spanish-diplomats-who-visited-14937846.php) The acting Bolivian government has initiated criminal charges against the officials for sedition, terrorism and electoral fraud and has refused to allow them safe passage out of the country.