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2009-06-19

Bolivia unable to reduce friction with neighbours

Tristán Landívar

Bolivia has succeeded in relieving only part of the tension affecting diplomatic relations with its neighbours after it resolved the controversial arrest of a Paraguayan citizen by Bolivian police. Relations with Peru, however, are still strained owing to

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Evo Morales (right) with Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo visits the Chaco region in Paraguay to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the Chaco War (1932-35). Apparently, Morales offended the Paraguayan parliament with a speech he gave.

Evo Morales (right) with Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo visits the Chaco region in Paraguay to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the Chaco War (1932-35). Apparently, Morales offended the Paraguayan parliament with a speech he gave.

LA PAZ, Bolivia – Bolivia has succeeded in relieving only part of the tensions affecting diplomatic relations with its neighbours after it cleared up the controversial arrest of a Paraguayan citizen by Bolivian police. Relations with Peru, however, are still strained after statements from President Alan García accusing Bolivian President Evo Morales of meddling in his country's internal affairs.

The difficulties between Paraguay and Bolivia were partly solved with the repatriation on 18 June of Roberto Sosa, a Paraguayan man accused of robbery and arrested during an unlawful operation by armed Bolivian police on Paraguayan soil. According to Última Hora, Sosa is now in “military custody”.

Paraguayan Foreign Minister Héctor Lacognata had demanded the immediate return of Sosa and threatened to withdraw diplomats from La Paz if the Bolivian government failed to comply, reported EFE. The order for the suspect's release came directly from Bolivian Defence Minister Walter San Miguel.

Paraguayan authorities said they were satisfied with Bolivia's apology; however, on 13 June another conflict arose between Morales and the Paraguayan parliament. The controversy began when Morales accompanied Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo to a ceremony celebrating the anniversary of the end of the Chaco War (1932-35) between the two countries.

In his speech, the Bolivian president said “the best parliament is the people”. According to El Deber, the Paraguayan parliament, already in conflict with Lugo, approved a resolution demanding an apology from Morales. There has been no response from La Paz.

The situation with Peru is much more delicate after Lima's Correo published accusations by Peruvian Foreign Minister Antonio García Belaúnde that Morales was the “instigator” of indigenous protests in Peru at the beginning of June which left 34 people dead.

García Belaúnde quoted a letter sent by Morales to a summit of indigenous leaders which called for a “revolution”. On 16 June, according to AFP, Peru sent its 11th diplomatic note of complaint to Bolivia and withdrew its ambassador from La Paz. Meanwhile, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca acknowledged that relations between the two countries were going through a bad patch, but did not intend to recall Bolivia's ambassador from Lima.

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