US warns of damaged relations with Bolivia

Other News Materials 11 September 2008 23:13 (UTC +04:00)

( dpa ) - The Bolivian government committed a "grave error" by expelling the US ambassador to the country, a move that has "seriously damaged" relations with the United States, the State Department said Thursday.

Bolivian President Evo Morales ordered Ambassador Philip Goldberg out of his country on Wednesday, alleging the American was supporting opposition groups in five provinces seeking autonomy from La Paz.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the charges were "baseless" and that the expulsion was "unwarranted."

"President Morales' action is a grave error that has seriously damaged the bilateral relationship," McCormack said.

McCormack noted the United States gives more development aid to Bolivia than any other country, serves as Bolivia's largest export market and is a major provider of counter-narcotics assistance.

"We regret that President Morales has chosen this course," McCormack said. "It will prejudice the interests of both countries, undermine the ongoing fight against drug-trafficking, and will have serious regional implications."

McCormack also alleged that the Bolivian government failed to address security threats to US anti-drug operations on Tuesday, forcing US agents to halt the effort.

Morales has faced mass demonstrations from separatist advocates from the five provinces. They have been led by wealthy descendents of Europeans who oppose Morales' socialistic plans to redistribute wealth.

Four of the provinces have passed referenda backing autonomy.