Page last updated at 00:50 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 01:50 UK

Washington expels Bolivian envoy

Bolivian police stand guard outside the US embassy in La Paz on 11 September 2008
Bolivia accuses the US envoy in La Paz of "conspiring against democracy"

The US says it is expelling Bolivia's envoy in Washington, a day after the US ambassador was told to leave Bolivia.

The US move comes after Bolivian President Evo Morales blamed the US envoy for inciting protesters in Bolivia - a claim denied by Washington.

And Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez now says he will expel the US envoy in Caracas, in solidarity with Mr Morales.

In Bolivia, at least eight people were killed in clashes between pro- and anti-government groups on Thursday.

The fighting between rival supporters took place in the remote northern province of Pando, officials said. At least 20 people were injured.

Bolivia has seen large protests in recent weeks by opponents of President Morales's economic and social policies.

'Grave error'

In a response to Mr Morales' move against the US envoy, the US state department declared that the Bolivian ambassador in Washington, Gustavo Guzman, was "persona non grata".

Violence has flared in eastern Bolivia

State department spokesman Sean McCormack said the decision was taken "in response to unwarranted actions, and in accordance with the Vienna Convention [on diplomatic protocol]".

Reacting to the decision to expel Mr Goldberg, whom Mr Morales accused of "conspiring against democracy" and encouraging the break-up of Bolivia, Mr McCormack said it was a "grave error" and described the accusations as "baseless".

Later on Thursday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the US Ambassador in Caracas, Patrick Duddy, had 72 hours to leave the country.

Mr Chavez also said he was recalling his envoy from Washington.

Military protection

The eight deaths in the remote jungle region of Pando happened as pro- and anti-government protesters fought each other with clubs, machetes and firearms, officials say.

Bolivian President Evo Morales (10 September)
Mr Morales wants to carry out land reforms to bring wealth to poor areas

Seven of the victims were farmers killed by opposition activists, reports say.

A government spokesman described the killings as a massacre.

Protesters have also been blocking roads and occupying buildings in eastern regions, which are home to Bolivia's important natural gas reserves.

Opposition groups want greater autonomy as well as more control over revenues of natural gas in their areas.

They object to Mr Morales's plans to give more power to the country's indigenous and poor communities, by carrying out land reform and redistributing gas revenues.

On Monday, the government announced it was sending the military to protect gas fields and infrastructure from demonstrators and guarantee exports to neighbouring countries.

On Wednesday, officials said saboteurs had caused a blast on a pipeline, forcing them to cut natural gas exports to neighbouring Brazil by 10%.

The Brazilian foreign ministry said in a statement that the government was taking the necessary measures to guarantee gas supplies in the country.

The statement also expressed Brazil's "grave concern" at the events in Bolivia, and deplored the outbreak of violence and attacks on state institutions and public order.

Anti-Morales protests hit Bolivia
10 Sep 08 |  Americas
Bolivia sets date for referendum
29 Aug 08 |  Americas
Violence mars Bolivian protests
19 Aug 08 |  Americas
Bolivian poll unites and divides
11 Aug 08 |  Americas
Morales calls for Bolivian unity
07 Aug 08 |  Americas
Country profile: Bolivia
22 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

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