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Venezuela's Chavez Threatens to Boot US Envoy
Published on Monday, April 10, 2006 by Agence France Presse
Venezuela's Chavez Threatens to Boot US Envoy

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to expel the US ambassador and blamed him for triggering protests in which his car was pelted with tomatoes and eggs.

"If you continue making provocations, you're going to have to pack your bags, mister, because I'm going to throw you out of here, Ambassador (William) Brownfield," Chavez said on his "Hello Mr. President!" weekly broadcast.

Chavez's threat is just the latest salvo in a long-standing slug-fest between the leftist populist and the administration of US President George W. Bush.

"If you're going to continue to provoke the Venezuelan people, you're going to have to go!" Chavez president declared. The provocation consisted of "traveling with armed guards, traveling with security details," he said.

On Saturday, acting foreign minister Alcides Rondon warned demonstrators against such displays: "The Venezuelan government and people repudiate any act of protest that goes beyond the limits of respect."

That came shortly after a US government warning on Friday, when protesters showered Brownfield's car in a neighborhood south of Caracas.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told AFP that Nicholas Burns, the US undersecretary of state for political affairs, called Caracas last week to protest the incident.

"This action was an outrageous violation of the Vienna Convention," McCormack quoted Burns, the department's number-three official, as having told told the Venezuelan government.

"Nick told the Venezuelan ambassador that we hold the government of Venezuela responsible for the ambassador's security, and if such an incident happens again, there will be severe diplomatic consequences between the two countries," the spokesman said in Washington Friday.

Brownfield met with a hostile reception as he arrived at a sports center in the working-class suburb of Coche, south of the capital, Friday to present a donation to a youth baseball team, embassy spokeswoman Salome Hernandez said.

She said the US envoy was egged and blocked from attending a charity event at a Venezuelan sports center in Caracas.

Video footage aired by Globovision television showed protesters shouting: "Get out, gringo!" "Get out, coup-backer!" "Get out, rubbish!"

Relations between Chavez and US President George W. Bush's administration have worsened in recent years.

Washington has charged Chavez's government with restricting the freedom of the press and harassing the opposition, while Chavez frequently criticizes Bush for the Iraq war and has openly called the US leader a "coward" and a "murderer."

Venezuela, the only Latin American member of the Organization of the Oil Producing Countries (OPEC) is one of the most important sources of imported US oil.

Chavez blames the Bush administration for backing an aborted 2002 coup, in which he was removed from power for less than 48 hours, and claims the United States has plans to remove him from power.

Copyright © 2006 AFP


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