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Acting Out In South America

The leaders of Bolivia and Venezuela fancy themselves strong-minded and forceful men, and are bold to speak their minds even when they don't have their facts straight. Such was the case recently when they expelled the U.S. ambassadors to their countries on false charges that they meddled in internal politics.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on September 11th gave Ambassador Patrick Duddy 72 hours to leave Caracas, claiming the U.S. was supporting a plot to overthrow him. He provided no evidence to support this spurious charge. His action followed a decision by Bolivian President Evo Morales to expel Ambassador Philip Goldberg for allegedly helping instigate antigovernment protests. Like his friend Mr. Chavez, the Bolivian president offered no evidence to support the charge.

The reason neither leader provided evidence to justify their actions was that there is none. The charges against the U.S. envoys have no basis in fact and the Venezuelan and Bolivian leaders know it. Both Mr. Morales and Mr. Chavez made serious errors in their actions, ones that will cause additional problems in the region. These leaders face growing political opposition at home, which is likely the reason they chose to act now.

While Mr. Morales and Mr. Chavez accuse the United States of conspiracy, the only meaningful conspiracy in the region is the common commitment of democratic countries to enhance opportunities for their citizens. The only overthrow they seek is that of poverty.

U.S. relations with Bolivia and Venezuela have deep and historical roots, and through strong trade and cultural ties they benefit our respective peoples. No country has ever improved the well being of its citizens by antagonizing neighbors and refraining from dealings with the world's democracies.