Mexico says Bolivian security forces in La Paz, the capital, have increased their presence around the Mexican ambassador’s residence, where former Bolivian Cabinet ministers and others loyal to ousted President Evo Morales have sought refuge.
Troops gathered in larger numbers around the residence on Tuesday, the Mexican Foreign Ministry said. Maximiliano Reyes, Mexico’s undersecretary for Latin America, described the Bolivian patrols around the diplomatic property as a “siege.”
Relations between the two countries have been strained since Mexico granted asylum to Morales after he resigned Nov. 10 following 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 neighboring Bolivia. Some former top aides remain holed up in the Mexican ambassador’s residence.
Wilson Santamaría, Bolivia’s deputy minister of public security, said the Morales loyalists would not be allowed to leave the country.
“We have taken the necessary steps so that the security forces immediately track and detect any help, any complicity in helping the fugitives flee the country,” he said.
Those who sought refuge in the residence include Juan Ramón Quintana, the former chief of staff for Morales, and five other former ministers, according to a Mexican official. The official was not authorized to comment publicly about the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Several are accused by the interim government of President Jeanine Áñez of electoral fraud or other crimes.
Mexico has complained that Bolivian security and intelligence officials have surrounded the ambassador’s residence and the embassy, recording the movement of people in and out of the facilities, and even impeding the “free transit” of the ambassador.
Erick Foronda, Bolivia’s presidential secretary, denied that authorities are interfering with the movements of Mexico’s diplomats. The police presence at the diplomatic facilities was increased for security reasons after reports of planned demonstrations in the area, he said.