Bolivia Expels Second U.S. Diplomat

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 already had expelled the U.S. ambassador six months earlier.

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

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

Last week, Mr. Morales publicly accused Mr. Martinez of "coordinating contacts" with a Bolivian police officer 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 Mr. Morales' accusation about alleged CIA infiltration of the company baseless and accused him 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 a statement.

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, unabashedly capitalist eastern lowlands.

Mr. Morales later kicked out the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, accusing it of espionage and of funding "criminal groups" seeking to undermine his government. He alleged intrigue that he did not detail.

A former coca-growers union leader, Mr. Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous president and is seeking to "refound" the country on behalf of its long-suppressed native majority.

In promoting a socialist agenda, Mr. Morales nationalized control of Bolivia's natural gas reserves in mid-2006, alienating many foreign investors and further polarizing South America's poorest nation.

Mr. Morales is a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who kicked out the U.S. ambassador in September in solidarity with Morales,

In 2005, Mr. Chavez suspended his country's cooperation with the DEA, similarly accusing its agents of espionage.

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