The president of Bolivia is moving to have the U.S. ambassador expelled from the country amid allegations he incited anti-government protesters.
Evo Morales said Wednesday the ambassador, Philip Goldberg, is persona non grata in Bolivia, and he asked his foreign minister to send a note to the American legate asking that he leave the country.
"We don't want people ... who conspire against the [country's] unity. We don't want people who work against democracy," Morales said in a Spanish-language statement.
Morales is an indigenous Bolivian whose rise to power in 2005 was heralded as a watershed moment for the country's majority aboriginal population. He has used his first presidential term to effectively nationalize much of the nation's petroleum and mineral wealth — often to the detriment of foreign corporations and Bolivia's old-guard, wealthy elites.
His economic policies have kindled an autonomy movement and, in the last few weeks, touched off demonstrations in the resource-rich lowland regions of eastern Bolivia, where residents aren't keen to see royalties redistributed more widely among the populace.
Morales offered no specific evidence Wednesday that Goldberg had a hand in the increasingly violent protests by separatists, saying merely that "it is the obligation of the government and of the Bolivian people to defend our national unity."
Goldberg's previous posting was as the U.S. chef de mission in Kosovo, where, Morales said, he promoted the country's separation from Serbia.
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department in Washington said the allegations were "baseless," adding that the embassy had yet to receive an official request for Goldberg's removal.
The push to expel Goldberg will further rankle the often frosty relationship between Bolivia and the United States.
Earlier this year, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Bolivia was caught instructing 30 American aid workers and a scholar to spy on Venezuelan and Cuban medical workers volunteering in the country.
The State Department said the requests to collect information on the medical personnel were made "in error" and violated policy. The diplomat involved, assistant regional security officer Vincent Cooper, was recalled to Washington.
Morales has also perturbed American anti-drug sensibilities with his policies toward coca, the plant used in the manufacture of cocaine. The Bolivian government permits small-scale coca farming and has promoted the commercialization of the plant for non-narcotic uses in products such as shampoos, cookies and tea.