Bolivian president defends expulsion of U.S. ambassador
December 31, 2008 - News.xinhuanet(

LA PAZ, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- Bolivian President Evo Morales said Tuesday that the September expulsion of U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg was "a success and not a mistake because it "thwarted " an opposition coup plot.

At an evaluation meeting of his third year as president, Morales said that he did not make a mistake in deciding the "ambassador had to go," after his party "had endured the assault of the (Bolivian) right-wing."

Five of Bolivia's nine provinces are controlled by the opposition, whose objections to Morales' new constitution, the centerpiece of his program to distribute more of the nation's wealth to the impoverished majority, created political unrest in September.

On Sept. 10, Morales declared the U.S. ambassador "persona non grata" and ordered him to "immediately" leave the country, accusing him of encouraging, together with the opposition, protests against his government. Washington called Morales's decision "a grave error."

On Sept 13, U.S. President George W. Bush responded by expelling Gustavo Guzman, Bolivian ambassador to the United States.

The actions set Bolivian-U.S. ties at its lowest level, worsened by Bolivia's suspending the activities of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the country.

The Bolivian president said earlier this month, however, that ties with the U.S. could be re-examined once U.S. president-elect Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20.