Mexico's ambassador leaves Bolivia after expulsion

La Paz (AFP) –


Mexico's ambassador to Bolivia left the country Tuesday after being expelled by the interim government following a diplomatic row over her embassy's sheltering of officials linked to ex-president Evo Morales.

Maria Teresa Mercado was declared "persona non grata" after Mexico was accused of colluding with Spanish diplomats to whisk wanted ex-interior minister Juan Ramon Quintana out of the embassy in La Paz.

"No incident has been recorded, everything went smoothly," Bolivian police chief Antonio Montero told reporters, commenting on Mercado's exit.

Quintana, along with up to nine other Morales officials, took refuge in the embassy after Morales resigned and fled to Mexico on November 10.

Quintana and the other former officials have been charged with terrorism and sedition offenses linked to a spate of post-election violence in the South American country.

Mercado said on Twitter she was "proud to serve my country and its principles and tradition of asylum."

Bolivia also expelled two Spanish diplomats, accusing them of playing a part in trying to spirit Quintana out of the embassy. Madrid reciprocated Monday by expelling three Bolivian diplomats.

In a statement, the European Union office in La Paz said it regretted the expulsion of the Spaniards, calling it "an extreme and unfriendly measure which should be reserved for serious situations," and expressed "deep concern" over what it called the "escalation" of the row.

Mexico said it viewed Mercado's expulsion as a political decision and did not intend breaking off diplomatic relations with Bolivia.