From the first hours of the State coup perpetrated in Bolivia last Sunday, November 10, the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador offered refuge to the cornered president, who, after announcing his resignation to avoid the assault against him from deriving into a blood bath, left La Paz for the Chimoré Airport and a few hours later informed the Mexican government of his acceptance of its offer.
With the South American country plunged into violence and anarchy, the Secretary of Foreign Relations (SRE) immediately initiated an extremely complex task to achieve that some instance of command would extend safe conduct to Morales Ayma and García Linera to abandon their country. At the same time, the Mexican Air Force (FAM, its initials in Spanish) prepared an airplane for the uncertain round trip.
With Bolivia in chaos and with its neighbors governed by rightwing regimes hostile to Evo, the obstacles were almost insurmountable. The Argentina of Macri and the Chile of Piñera were not willing to permit the airplane that was to bring the refugees to Mexico to cross through its airspace, and the Brazil of Bolsonaro was ruled out from the start.
Only Peru authorized the flyover, in a way that the FAM’s small reactor arrived in Lima in the early hours of Monday and, after refueling, headed to Bolivian territory. But when it was about to enter Bolivian airspace, it was denied a flight permit, so it had to return to the Peruvian capital.
During several hours of negotiations se logró the required authorization was achieved, with which the plane could take off again and land at the Chimoré Airport, where the deposed officials were located. There were hours of extreme tension and acute danger there and, due to the unusual reluctance of the Bolivian Air Force to permit takeoff. Meanwhile, Chancellor Marcelo Ebrard, with the help of Argentine president-elect Alberto Fernández, achieved that the government of Paraguay would permit the arrival of the FAM airplane in its territory. Finally, “by millimeters,” as Ebrard himself narrated, authorization was obtained from the coup plotters, the jet departed for Asunción to make an indispensable technical stop. When the takeoff for Lima was being prepared, the Bolivian military commanders denied the use of airspace and the Peruvian government, alleging “political assessments,” communicated that the plane could fly over Peru, but not make a stop in that country.
An effort described as “almost miraculous” by the head of the SRE made it possible for the authorities of Brasilia to open a route over their territory to go around Bolivia on the return trip. Then it was necessary to bypass Ecuador before entering international waters. At the end of a day and a half trip, the FAM Gulfstream landed yesterday, a little after 11 o’clock in the morning at the Benito Juárez Airport (Mexico City) with the guests safe.
Apart from the anger of the local right over the described rescue and over the granting of political asylum to the two Bolivian leaders –and to dozens of ex officials and adherents of the overthrown government who are still in the Mexican Embassy in La Paz–, between the day before yesterday and yesterday our country starred in an honorable page in the history of political asylum, a right that together with the principle of non intervention, respect for self-determination and the peaceful solution of conflicts, has come to be a fundamental pillar of the nation’s foreign policy.
It’s thus worth recognizing the admirable effort of the commanders and personnel of the Mexican Air Force, the capability and dedication of the SRE, its head and the Under-secretariat for Latin America and the presidential determination giving value to principles over difficulties.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee