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Bolivia orders U.S. diplomat out

President Evo Morales accuses a U.S. Embassy official of conspiring with opposition groups. The U.S. ambassador was expelled six months ago.

March 10, 2009|Associated Press

LA PAZ, BOLIVIA — President Evo Morales on Monday ordered a U.S. diplomat to leave the country, alleging he was conspiring with opposition groups. The leftist leader also expelled the U.S. ambassador six months ago.

Morales said that "deep investigations" had determined that the U.S. Embassy's second secretary, Francisco Martinez, "was in permanent contact with opposition groups."

The U.S. government had no immediate comment, although an embassy official said Martinez was a career diplomat whose portfolio was political affairs. The official was not authorized to discuss the expulsion and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Last week, Morales publicly accused Martinez of "coordinating contacts" with a Bolivian police officer whom he accused of infiltrating the state oil company on behalf of the CIA. The oil company has been plagued by a corruption scandal that landed its president, a close Morales ally, in jail.

The U.S. government last week called the accusation baseless and accused Morales of using the United States as a scapegoat in domestic politics.

"We can't understand how the president can assure us that he wants better relations with the United States and at the same time continue to make false accusations," Denise Urs, an embassy spokeswoman, said last week.

In September, Morales expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, alleging he was inciting the political opposition. The move followed bloody rioting between Morales supporters and pro-autonomy activists in Bolivia's wealthier eastern lowlands.

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