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Bolivia Distances Itself from the Evo Morales Era, Suspends Relations with Cuba

Bolivia Distances Itself from the Evo Morales Era, Suspends Relations with Cuba

By José Arturo Cárdenas / AFP
February 05, 2020

Bolivia’s interim government “suspended” diplomatic relations with Cuba on January 24, in yet another move from Bolivian right-wing President Jeanine Áñez to distance herself from the foreign policy of her predecessor, Evo Morales.

“The Plurinational State of Bolivia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces to the national and international public that it has decided to suspend diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba as of this date,” said Cabinet Minister and acting Foreign Minister Yerko Núñez.

Núñez, who is temporarily replacing Bolivia’s Foreign Minister Karen Longaric, currently on a mission to the Organization of American States in Washington, characterized the statements by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez as “unacceptable.” On January 22, Rodríguez described Áñez as a “self-proclaimed coup-leader.”

The interim government notified the Cuban Embassy in La Paz of its decision, Núñez said. Áñez took office two days after Morales’s resignation on November 10.

Morales, who is living in exile in Argentina, said via Twitter that he “condemned” the measure and regretted “the permanent deterioration of the Plurinational State of Bolivia’s international image as a State that respects the people’s free self-determination, sovereignty, and diplomacy.”

To distance herself from Morales’ foreign policy, two days after taking office Áñez broke ties with Nicolás Maduro, a close partner of her predecessor, just like Cuba, and recognized parliamentary leader Juan Guaidó.

Bolivia is now the only country in the Americas without diplomatic relations with Cuba.

“Agreements are on hold”
Bolivian Deputy Foreign Minister Eduardo Zannier said at the same press conference that “the suspension is very similar to breaking off [diplomatic] relations.”

As such, the measure will affect the presence of diplomatic personnel at both embassies, although he didn’t give further details.

“All talks, negotiations, and official and governmental agreements are suspended; there will only be a small delegation here in Bolivia and there in Havana,” Zannier said.

Núñez said that “[the Cuban diplomats] will surely leave the country in due time.”

Confrontation with Minister Rodríguez
The decision, Núñez said, was made because of “unacceptable comments from Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla and Cuba’s hostility and constant grievances against the Bolivian constitutional government.”

On Twitter, the Cuban foreign minister called Áñez’s statements of January 22, on Plurinational State Foundation Day, as established by Morales, “vulgar lies by the self-proclaimed coup-leader in Bolivia.”

The president said that during Morales’ 14 years in office, Bolivia spent about “$147 million” to fund a medical brigade, but that “less than a third” of its members were professional doctors.

In addition, only 20 percent of the funding was destined for this health program. “The rest was diverted to fund Castro-communism,” Áñez said.

In the same tweet, the Cuban foreign minister said that Áñez’s decision to cancel the Cuban medical mission affected the Bolivian people, since “454,440 medical consultations had been suspended.”

Interference allegations
From the outset, Áñez’s government showed differences with Havana, in contrast to Morales’ close ties.

Áñez blamed Cubans and Venezuelans for meddling in Bolivian affairs and contributing to destabilization, blaming them for the violence and riots carried out after the — now annulled — elections of October 20, which left 35 dead, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Morales had close relations with Cuba long before he came to power in 2006, and used to call Cuban leader Fidel Castro (who died in 2016) “wise grandfather.”

Recently, the Áñez government broke off a commercial agreement on urea exports, arguing that its prices were too low.

La Paz and Havana had strained relations in the past. In the 1960s, Argentine Ernesto Che Guevara led a guerilla campaign in Bolivia in an attempt to export Castro’s revolution. Guevara was captured and summarily executed by the Bolivian Army in 1967.