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Bolivia Expels American Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg
For months, Mr. Morales has accused Mr. Goldberg -- to whom he occasionally refers derisively as the "gringo" -- of orchestrating the political opposition in breakaway provinces. While Mr. Morales has yet to provide evidence for his charges, the anti-U.S. rhetoric has energized his supporters. Mr. Goldberg, a career diplomat who served in Kosovo before arriving in Bolivia in 2006, was briefly recalled to the U.S. in June after rowdy protests outside the U.S. embassy raised security concerns. The expulsion of Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg came hours after Bolivian officials blamed sabotage by antigovernment protesters Wednesday for disrupting gas exports to Argentina and Brazil. The State Department said it hasn't received official notification of the move. The two events signaled an ominous escalation of feuding between Mr. Morales' left-wing government and conservative provinces in the eastern part of the country. The president's opponents accuse him of being an authoritarian who wants to impose a socialist state. Analysts fear the chronically unstable country could descend into open political violence.
PCOL Comment: This is not the first controversy surrounding Philip S. Goldberg's tenure as US Ambassador to Bolivia.
Bolivia Expels American Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg
Bolivia Expels American Ambassador
Move by Morales
Follows Disruption Of Gas Exports
By JOHN LYONS
September 11, 2008; Page A9
Caption: The US Embassy in Bolivia
Bolivia's President Evo Morales moved to expel the U.S. ambassador, accusing him of promoting the country's breakup by encouraging a separatist movement in the eastern provinces.
The expulsion of Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg came hours after Bolivian officials blamed sabotage by antigovernment protesters Wednesday for disrupting gas exports to Argentina and Brazil. The State Department said it hasn't received official notification of the move.
The two events signaled an ominous escalation of feuding between Mr. Morales' left-wing government and conservative provinces in the eastern part of the country. The president's opponents accuse him of being an authoritarian who wants to impose a socialist state. Analysts fear the chronically unstable country could descend into open political violence.
Wednesday, the head of Bolivia's state energy company, YPFB, told reporters that a "terrorist act" had reduced gas transfers to Brazil by 10%. Brazil, which gets about half its gas from Bolivia, is Bolivia's biggest customer.
Gas-industry workers said two separate incidents curtailed exports. Protesters took over a gas plant in the state of Chuquisaca and shut it down, blocking the flow of about two million cubic feet a day from lines headed for Brazil, or about 6% of Brazil's total. Meanwhile, in the state of Tarija, an unknown person apparently sabotaged a valve on one of two pipelines that delivers gas to Argentina.
Hours later, Mr. Morales, an ally of Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, said he was expelling the U.S. ambassador. Mr. Goldberg "should return to his country at once," Mr. Morales said, according to Agence France Presse.
For months, Mr. Morales has accused Mr. Goldberg -- to whom he occasionally refers derisively as the "gringo" -- of orchestrating the political opposition in breakaway provinces. While Mr. Morales has yet to provide evidence for his charges, the anti-U.S. rhetoric has energized his supporters. Mr. Goldberg, a career diplomat who served in Kosovo before arriving in Bolivia in 2006, was briefly recalled to the U.S. in June after rowdy protests outside the U.S. embassy raised security concerns.
Mr. Morales, an Aymara Indian, is seeking a new constitution to benefit his mainly poor, indigenous followers in the Andean highlands. That vision is colliding with an autonomy movement in economically crucial provinces of Bolivia's low-lying east.
Last month, a national referendum that put Mr. Morales's presidency and eight of nine governorships in play failed to settle the political standoff. Mr. Morales won a big majority of the electorate, concentrated mainly in the highlands. Key opposition governors, however, also won majorities in their regions.
Wednesday's gas disruptions came a day after protesters in four provinces of the gas-rich east -- Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando and Tarija -- stormed government buildings to protest Mr. Morales' decision to schedule a vote on the constitution for December.
The new constitution redefines private property, grants special rights based on indigenous ethnicity, centralizes more economic power in the presidency and allows Mr. Morales to be re-elected. Critics say Mr. Morales will use it to seize farmland, nationalize more industries and remain in office indefinitely.
The four opposition provinces declared autonomy from the central government in recent months. Mr. Morales responded by holding back revenue owed to the provinces.
Mr. Morales is under increasing pressure to rein in the provinces, which account for more than half the nation's economic output. His aircraft has been forced to divert from provincial airports by protesters on several occasions. Meantime, he is facing opposition from onetime supporters. The indigenous governor of Chuquisaca state now opposes him.
The U.S. State Department said it hadn't yet received official notification of Mr. Morales' decision. "We are working to confirm the government of Bolivia's intentions," said Sara Mangiaracina, a State Department spokeswoman.
Write to John Lyons at email@example.com
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Headlines: September, 2008; Peace Corps Bolivia; Directory of Bolivia RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Bolivia RPCVs; Diplomacy; Safety and Security of Volunteers
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