Bolivia's Morales: US conspiring against him

April 18, 2009 4:01:27 PM PDT
Bolivia's leader claimed Saturday that Washington continues to conspire against him - despite President Barack Obama's pledge of a new era of mutual respect toward Latin America. Evo Morales, an ally of Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez, told a news conference at a summit in Trinidad that he asked Obama to publicly repudiate an assassination plot against him during a morning meeting the U.S. president held with 12 South American leaders.

Obama responded that he was unfamiliar with the incident but assured Morales "his administration was not involved" and "made it clear he does not endorse or condone the use of violence against democratically elected governments," said a senior U.S. official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed.

Bolivian authorities say they crushed on Thursday a group comprised mostly of foreign mercenaries that was planning to kill Morales and his vice president. Police killed three alleged conspirators, including an Irishman and a Romanian.

Morales did not allege U.S. involvement in the purported plot. But he said Obama's vow in a speech at Summit of the America's inauguration on Friday rings hollow without a denunciation.

"Obama said three things: There are neither senior or junior partners. He said relations should be of mutual respect, and he spoke of change," Morales said. "In Bolivia ... one doesn't feel any change. The policy of conspiracy continues."

He said if Obama does not repudiate the alleged assassination plot, "I might think it was organized through the embassy."

Morales expelled U.S. ambassador Philip Goldberg in September and kicked out the Drug Enforcement Administration the next month for allegedly conspiring with the political opposition to incite violence.

The administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush subsequently suspended trade preferences to Bolivia that local business leaders say could cost it 20,000 jobs.

Obama has been so consumed with pressing issues such as the global economic crisis that he has yet to put in place a Latin America team to deal with thorny regional issues such as relations with Bolivia, an analyst said.

"Nobody in Washington is paying any attention," said Kathryn Ledebur of the Andean Information Network, a Bolivia-based drug policy think tank.

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