Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for South America

Newsline: Argentina, Ecuador in diplomatic row

A diplomatic spat between Argentina and Ecuador escalated Tuesday after it was revealed that a convicted former cabinet minister, who had been living in the Argentine embassy, had escaped Quito to Venezuela. Maria de los Angeles Duarte, who served under former president Rafael Correa, was sentenced to eight years for bribery, but had been holed up in Argentina’s embassy since August 2020 with her son, whose father is Argentine. Argentina had offered Duarte asylum, but Ecuador refused to grant her free passage out of the country. Duarte “was present in the Argentine embassy in Caracas” from 11:00 am on Tuesday, the Argentine foreign ministry said in a statement, without giving any details of how she had managed to escape to Venezuela. (https://news.yahoo.com/ecuador-argentina-diplomatic-row-over-032507763.html) Ecuador reacted angrily, summoning Argentina’s ambassador Gabriel Fuks to explain what it called inconsistencies in the embassy’s explanations of how Duarte had escaped and for refusing to hand over video surveillance footage from inside the compound. Quito then declared Fuks persona non grata and recalled its own ambassador to Argentina for consultations. Buenos Aires then followed suit, recalling its ambassador from Quito and saying it would also expel Ecuador’s ambassador.

Newsline: Chile’s former EU ambassador becomes foreign minister

Chile’s President Gabriel Boric, who has been struggling with low approval ratings since taking office a year ago, announced a major cabinet reshuffle on Friday, including the foreign minister. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/chiles-boric-swaps-out-foreign-minister-amid-cabinet-reshuffle-2023-03-10/) Alberto van Klaveren, who was Chile’s ambassador to the European Union from 2001 to 2006 and served as undersecretary of foreign affairs from 2006 to 2009 under former President Michelle Bachelet, will replace Antonia Urrejola as minister of foreign affairs.

Newsline: Peru announces return of ambassador from Mexico

Peru’s President Dina Boluarte announced the return of the country’s ambassador in Mexico in response to comments from her Mexican counterpart branding her government as unconstitutional. Boluarte said the remarks made earlier on Friday by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador about her administration go against the international right to non-interference. Mexico’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Boluarte ascended to the South American country’s presidency on Dec. 7 after former President Pedro Castillo was impeached following an attempt to dissolve Congress. Boluarte accused Lopez Obrador of backing Castillo’s attempt at a “coup d’etat.” “With his statements, Mr. Lopez violates the principle of international law about non-interference in internal affairs, as well as those referring to the defense and promotion of democracy,” she said in a television address. Lopez Obrador told a news conference on Friday that Mexico will keep supporting Castillo, as he was “illegally ousted.” (https://neuters.de/world/americas/peru-president-announces-expulsion-mexican-ambassador-lima-2023-02-25/) Boluarte’s remarks come after a meeting between Lopez Obrador and Castillo’s wife, Lilia Paredes, in Mexico earlier this week.

Newsline: Venezuela appoints new ambassador to Colombia

Venezuela’s National Assembly on Thursday approved the appointment of Carlos Eduardo Martinez, a former soldier, as the country’s new ambassador to Colombia, after Caracas’ former top diplomat to Bogota stood down in January. The Venezuelan government appointed its first ambassador, Félix Plasencia, to Colombia in August 2022 as ties between the neighboring countries strengthened after President Gustavo Petro was inaugurated in Bogota. Plasencia stood down as ambassador in January to become general secretary of ALBA, a bloc of leftist countries in the region. Martinez is a former brigadier general and represented the Venezuelan government during the first round of peace talks between Colombia and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group. (https://www.fxempire.com/news/article/venezuela-appoints-new-ambassador-to-colombia-1286940) Martinez previously served as Venezuela’s ambassador to Argentina. Caracas broke off relations with Bogota in early 2019 after members of Venezuela’s opposition tried to cross into the country from Colombia with trucks full of food and medicine. Petro, Colombia’s first leftist president, had pledged to normalize diplomatic relations with Venezuela following years of tensions between the two countries. Diplomatic and trade relations began a process of normalization in September 2022.

Newsline: Brazil diplomat says Germany to announce investment in Amazon Fund

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will announce a fresh investment of 31 million euros ($33.7 million) in the multilateral Amazon Fund, a Brazilian diplomat said on Friday, ahead of the European leader’s official visit to Brasilia on Monday. (https://neuters.de/business/environment/scholz-announce-fresh-investment-amazon-fund-says-brazil-diplomat-2023-01-27/) The contribution will include 21 million euros to fight deforestation and 10 million euros to boost the Brazilian “bioeconomy,” ambassador Kenneth Nobrega told reporters.

Newsline: Peru ambassador to Honduras recalled

Peru withdrew its ambassador to Honduras, Jorge Raffo, due to Honduras’ “unacceptable interference” in the internal affairs of Peru, the South American nation’s foreign ministry said on Thursday. “As a consequence of the position adopted by Honduras, bilateral relations with said country will be maintained, indefinitely, at the level of chargé d’affaires,” the foreign ministry said on Twitter. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/peru-recalls-ambassador-honduras-unacceptable-interference-diplomatic-spat-2023-01-26/) The step is part of a deepening showdown between Peru President Dina Boluarte and her regional peers, including the leftist leaders of Mexico, Bolivia and Honduras. At the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Argentina earlier this week, Honduran President Xiomara Castro called Boluarte’s ascension to power a “coup d’état.” Boluarte became president in December after Castillo attempted to illegally dissolve Congress, was ousted and detained. Boluarte has struggled to calm political unrest as protests have left dozens dead, although she has called on Congress to move up elections.

Newsline: Colombian intelligence reportedly spied on Russian and Cuban diplomats

Colombian intelligence carried out OUT surveillance operations against Russian and Cuban diplomats stationed in Colombia between 2016 and 2019, according to media reports that surfaced earlier this week. The reports claim that Colombia’s National Intelligence Directorate (DNI) was behind the operations, which involved physical, as well as electronic, surveillance. (https://intelnews.org/tag/russian-embassy-in-colombia/) One of the operations was reportedly codenamed CATEDRA, and targeted three senior staff members of the Russian embassy in the Colombian capital Bogota. In addition to the diplomats themselves, DNI agents allegedly spied on the diplomats’ spouses and their children. In some cases, DNI agents disguised themselves as “street vendors” in order to spy on the homes of the diplomats. The DNI also spied on at least 10 Cuban diplomats and other members of the embassy of Cuba in Bogota, according to the same reports. The operation, codenamed MATIAS, investigated alleged “Cuban interference” in Colombia, and took place while the Cuban government was hosting peace talks between the Colombian government of then-president Juan Manuel Santos and leaders of the country’s largest militant groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). According to the reports, the DNI recruited a Cuban embassy worker, instructing her to “install [surveillance] devices and extract information from the building where control targets [were] located”. This eventually enabled the DNI to gain “access to security cameras and rooms throughout the building” of the Cuban embassy, the reports claim. Operations MATIAS and CATEDRA were reportedly concluded in 2019.

Newsline: Diplomatic spat between Guatemala, Colombia intensifies

A diplomatic row between Guatemala and Colombia deepened on Tuesday as Guatemala’s government accused Colombia’s defense chief of crimes related to a high-stakes graft probe he once led as a special prosecutor in Guatemala. On Tuesday, the minister at the center of the storm – Colombian defense chief Ivan Velasquez – took to Twitter to thank those who have rallied to his side, including President Gustavo Petro, while also touting the need to fight graft. “We know the monster, we’ve seen it up close,” wrote Velasquez, who was the head from 2013-2019 of a U.N.-backed anti-corruption body that operated in Guatemala. “The fight against corruption has to be a goal, a collective action,” he added. Over the past year, Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei has faced a growing chorus of critics claiming he has slammed the brakes on anti-corruption efforts, as well as forcing some judges and prosecutors to flee the country. On Monday, Guatemala insinuated that Velasquez had committed crimes. A Guatemalan prosecutor later clarified that Velasquez is being investigated for “illegal, arbitrary and abusive acts” stemming from his investigation into an alleged bribery scheme involving Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht. Speaking from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Petro defended Velasquez, saying he would not accept any arrest warrant for him. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/guatemala-summons-ambassador-colombia-consultations-defense-minister-tussle-2023-01-17/) The spat led both nations to summon their ambassadors for consultations.

Newsline: Brazil to name woman as ambassador to Washington for first time

Diplomat Maria Luiza Viotti is expected to be the new Brazilian ambassador in Washington, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Wednesday, as President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pushes for more women in important diplomatic posts. Her appointment has not yet officially been confirmed by Brazil’s Foreign Ministry, pending talks with U.S. officials. If appointed, she will be the first woman to be Brazilian envoy the United States. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/brazil-name-woman-envoy-washington-first-time-source-2023-01-11/) Viotti’s appointment would need confirmation by the Brazilian Senate. Viotti, who served as chief of staff to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres from 2016-2021, is a top level diplomat who was Brazil’s ambassador to the United Nations and later to Germany. Lula’s government is making an effort to include more women in top diplomatic positions. Ambassador Maria Laura da Rocha was named deputy foreign minister and a woman is also being considered for the embassy in Argentina, the source said.

Newsline: Venezuelan president names new foreign minister

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Yvan Gil Pinto would become the new foreign minister. Venezuela is enjoying renewed ties with countries like Colombia after years of isolation, bolstered by the global need for oil amid the conflict in Ukraine. “It’s a great responsibility I’m sure he will perform with great professionalism,” Maduro said about Gil Pinto, who had been serving as vice-minister for Europe. (https://neuters.de/world/americas/venezuelan-president-names-new-head-pdvsa-foreign-minister-2023-01-06/) Former foreign minister Carlos Faria will also get a new role, Maduro added.