Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, on Wednesday threatened a further deterioration of relations with Washington by demanding that the US ambassador leave the Andean country.
The leftist head of state said he had asked Philip Goldberg to leave after accusing him of fomenting protests against his government, which is facing separatist movements.
“The ambassador of the United States is conspiring against democracy and wants Bolivia to break apart,” Mr Morales (pictured) said during a speech at the presidential palace in La Paz.
“Without fearing anybody, without fearing the Empire – I declared Mr Goldberg persona non-grata. We do not want separatist or divisionist people that conspire against unity or democracy,” he said.
Mr Morales blamed the US for conspiracy against the state and backing and financing the opposition to his government.
In the past two weeks, radical groups in the energy-rich east of Bolivia that are opposed to Mr Morales’ rule have been blocking roads and storming government buildings.
The groups are demanding a greater share of the country’s energy revenues generated from the natural gas fields located in their states as well as the suspension of a planned referendum on a new constitution.
Bolivian government officials have called the protests a “civil coup”.
The US state department described Mr Morales’s charges against the US ambassador as “baseless”.
Gordon Duguid, a state department spokesman, said: “Normally these sorts of messages are delivered through diplomatic channels. We have not yet received a diplomatic message and we are trying to establish just what the president’s intentions are.”
Relations between Bolivia and the US have been strained since Mr Morales took power in December 2005.
Like his ally, Hugo Chávez, president of Venezuela, he is a fierce critic of US foreign policy, especially in Latin America, describing it as “imperialistic”.
Mr Morales said he had told his foreign affairs minister to write to the US embassy asking Mr Goldberg to “urgently return to his country”.
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