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Bolivia slams Spain’s bid to use arms in diplomatic row

Bolivia on Friday slammed its former colonial ruler Spain for allegedly “trampling” its sovereignty in a deepening diplomatic row.

The two countries have been in a spiraling spat since Mexico granted asylum to Bolivian ex-president Evo Morales, who resigned on November 10 in the face of mass protests, and granted refuge to top officials from his leftist government at its embassy.

Police on Thursday stopped the entry of vehicles carrying hooded Spanish personnel from entering the embassy in La Paz, which has become the center of a diplomatic row after the embassy sheltered some 20 officials from the former government, Foreign Minister Karen Longaric said.

She did not say if Bolivia had derailed what could have been an attempted breakout of the Bolivian officials.

“Spanish embassy diplomatic and security staff in Bolivia are not authorized to carry firearms or wear attire that conceals their identity,” she said, stressing “these acts contravene diplomatic practices.”

Since Spain “abused the (diplomatic) privileges it has” under the Vienna Convention, Bolivia sent a letter to the Spanish Foreign Ministry to report the “serious trampling of Bolivia’s sovereignty.”

The diplomatic letter would be sent to the European Union, Organization of American States and United Nations, Longaric said.

Mexico accuses Bolivia’s new interim government of responding with a campaign of “harassment and intimidation” by deploying a large contingent of police and intelligence officers outside the embassy. That move, according to Mexico, violates the 1961 Vienna Convention on the protected status of diplomatic missions.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard has said his staff would file a complaint with the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Since right-wing interim president Jeanine Anez took over from Morales, the Bolivian authorities have issued arrest warrants for four of the ex-officials inside the Mexican embassy, accusing them of “sedition” and “terrorism” in connection with protest violence that killed 36 people.

Bolivia has been in turmoil since Morales, who had been in power since 2006, declared he won re-election to a controversial fourth term in a vote that was marred by accusations of fraud.

Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, resigned after losing the army’s backing and fled to Mexico, then Argentina.