Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for Spain

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: 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.

Newsline: Spain to probe Mexico embassy incident that outraged Bolivia

The Spanish government is to send a team of investigators to Bolivia to establish why its diplomatic staff tried to sneak into the Mexican embassy in La Paz. Madrid said on Saturday it would probe a complaint from Bolivia’s foreign ministry who described the incident, which took place a day earlier, as a violation of its sovereignty. In a media briefing, Bolivian Foreign Minister Karen Longaric said senior Spanish diplomatic staff were escorted by hooded people and had acted “in a secretive and underhand manner” to enter Mexico’s diplomatic residence in La Paz. (https://www.dw.com/en/spain-to-probe-mexico-embassy-incident-that-outraged-bolivia/a-51822678) She questioned the motive for the pair to make the visit “accompanied by people with their faces covered and presumably armed?” It was not clear if Bolivia had derailed an attempt by Bolivian officials — who served under ousted president Evo Morales and who had sought refuge in the Mexican embassy — to leave the compound.

Newsline: WikiLeaks’ Assange testifies in embassy spying case

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday testified in his legal case against a Spanish private security firm that he claims spied on him while he was holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy in London. Assange, who is currently serving time at a high-security prison in Britain, was to answer questions from a judge at Spain’s National Court in Madrid, testifying by videoconference from Westminster Magistrates Court in London, his legal team said. (https://www.france24.com/en/20191220-wikileaks-assange-testifies-in-embassy-spying-case) Spain’s top criminal court is investigating whether Undercover Global Ltd, which was responsible for security at the embassy, spied on Assange and passed on information to the United States. The case is key to Assange’s efforts to fight an extradition request by the US Justice Department which is pushing to have him put on trial for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010. “The case being investigated in Spain states that Mr Assange has been subjected to widespread interference on a massive scale by the American authorities, violating his confidential communications with his lawyers, among other rights,” his legal team said. “The information gathered by this firm — through the alleged use of video cameras which also captured audio, hidden microphones, copying identity documents, monitoring the electronic devices and mobile phones of visitors, among other things — ended up in the hands of the US intelligence services.” There was a “huge body of evidence” to back the claim, coming from both company data as well as from protected witnesses who were formerly employed by the firm, the source said. As well as installing cameras, Undercover Global is suspected of installing microphones in places as diverse as the base of a fire extinguisher and in the women’s toilets, where Assange held many meetings for fear of being spied on. They were allegedly able to record discussions with his lawyers as well as details of medical visits, with the information then transferred to servers that were accessible to the US intelligence services. His legal team said that given the alleged spying at the embassy, it “underlines the need for the British judicial system to refuse to hand him over to the United States” where there were no guarantees for his safety.

Newsline: Spain: Court probes spying of Assange at Ecuadorean embassy

Spain’s National Court said Wednesday it is investigating a Spanish security firm that worked for the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on suspicion that it spied on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for U.S. secret services during the seven years he spent in the embassy. The court said it is investigating whether David Morales and his Undercover Global S.L. security agency invaded Assange’s privacy and that of his lawyers by installing hidden microphones and other devices in the embassy. (http://www.startribune.com/spain-court-probes-spying-of-assange-at-ecuadorean-embassy/562627142/) It said the information gathered appeared to have been passed on to Ecuadorean and U.S. bodies. Assange is jailed in London, fighting extradition to the United States on espionage charges. He was given asylum in the embassy for some seven years after jumping bail in 2012 when Sweden sought his extradition on sexual misconduct allegations. Court documents said Morales and his firm, based in the southern Spanish town of Jerez de la Frontera, were also under investigation for bribery and money laundering. The court opened the investigation in August following a complaint by Assange and his defense team, but did not release the information until Wednesday as it had placed a secrecy order on the case. A court official confirmed that Morales was arrested last month but is on conditional release.

Newsline: From controversy to EU’s top diplomat

The nomination of Spain’s Josep Borrell as the EU high-representative for foreign affairs and vice-president of the commission was among one of Ursula von der Leyen’s most surprising appointments – he is 72-years-old and his career has been marred by more than one contentious event. Borrell is a former aeronautical engineer with a doctorate in economics and an extensive experience in Brussels. He was elected as the president of the EU Parliament from 2004 to 2007, and remained as the president of the committee on development until 2009. But, at first inspection, the parliament’s legal affairs committee was not satisfied with the financial declaration of Borrell. (https://euobserver.com/political/146106) Borrell is also well-known for saying controversial things, that may complicate his hearing taking place on 7 October. For instance, Borrell has voiced his sympathy for Iran on several occasion – defending the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that US president Donald Trump rejected and pledging to try to save it. Overall, his relationship with US president Donal Trump is not the best. Borrell described him as the first US president “to voice hostility towards the European project [and] to describe us as foes”. He also defined China as a “systemic rival”, and the EU-Turkey agreement for refugees as a solution “to stop an immigrant haemorrhage”. His comments even made Russia summon the Spanish ambassador to Moscow last May after he referred to the country as an “old enemy [that] is once again saying, ‘here I am,’ and has returned as a threat”.