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Shultz, Wife Escape Bomb Blast in Bolivia Motorcade : Narcotics Traffickers Are Blamed

August 08, 1988|Associated Press

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Secretary of State George P. Shultz narrowly escaped an assassination attempt today when a bomb exploded in the middle of his motorcade. A window of his wife's car was shattered, but she was not injured.

The government put blame for the attack--and another bombing today at the U.S. commissary in La Paz--on cocaine traffickers. No injuries were reported in either bombing, although the entrance to the commissary building was damaged.

The attack on Shultz's motorcade occurred on the outskirts of the Bolivian capital as the secretary of state and his party were driving in from the airport. The bomb blew a hole in the road and scattered chunks of pavement over a wide area.

Tires Blown Out

State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said in Washington that windows were smashed or tires blown on three cars in the motorcade. She said Shultz's wife, Helena, was in the first car that was damaged, medical personnel were in the second and State Department spokesman Charles Redman was in the third. Shultz and his wife were in separate cars.

Oakley said Shultz was proceeding with his schedule as planned.

"If people are hoping for some sort of interruption in our drug interdiction efforts, that is not in the cards," Redman told reporters at a briefing in La Paz. He said he was paraphrasing Shultz.

The explosion occurred seconds after Shultz's car passed over the road but before all 11 cars in the official motorcade had gone by. The blast came between the sixth and seventh vehicles.

No Claims of Responsibility

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings, but Foreign Minister Guillermo Bedregal said both were the work of cocaine dealers. U.S. cooperation with government efforts to stem the thriving cocaine trade has fueled anti-American sentiment in Bolivia.

After the highway blast, dozens of police officers closed the road and climbed a nearby hill to search for the bombers. They found a wire they said had detonated the bomb by remote control.

Shultz, 67, was riding in one of the first few cars of the motorcade. Riding with him was Bolivia's foreign minister and U.S. Embassy Charge d'Affaires David Greenley. A police escort accompanied the motorcade.

Taken to Embassy

Shultz had been scheduled to go to the Sheraton Hotel in La Paz but instead was rushed directly to the U.S. Embassy.

He has been secretary of state since 1982 and has traveled widely abroad but has never been attacked.

In La Paz, Shultz was expected to praise the government's efforts in fighting cocaine production and smuggling. The government crackdown and U.S. cooperation have angered Bolivian drug barons as well as small farmers, many of whom depend on coca crops for their livelihood.

Shultz is on a 10-day, nine-country Latin American tour aimed at gaining support for the Reagan Administration's policies. He flew to Bolivia today from Brazil. He began his tour Aug. 1 in Guatemala City. The trip is scheduled to end Wednesday in Ecuador.

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