Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced that the U.S. ambassador has 72 hours to leave Venezuela and he's recalling his ambassador from Washington.
Chavez said he's asking U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy to leave as a means of showing solidarity with Bolivian President Evo Morales, who recently announced that he was expelling Washington's envoy to his country.
Chavez announced the decision during a televised speech, hours after saying his government had detained a group of alleged conspirators in a plot to overthrow him.
Chavez accused the group of current and former military officers of trying to assassinate him and topple the government with support from the United States. He didn't offer evidence. U.S. officials have repeatedly denied Chavez's accusations that Washington has backed plots against him.
Bolivia's ambassador to the United States, Gustavo Guzman, was called to the U.S. State Department earlier Thursday and ordered to leave the country to reciprocate for Bolivia expelling the U.S. ambassador, said a department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The move came after Morales said Wednesday that U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg is persona non grata in Bolivia, and asked his foreign minister to send a note to the American legate asking that he leave the country.
Goldberg was accused of inciting anti-government protesters, although Morales offered no specific evidence.
Morales' plans to overhaul the constitution and redirect gas revenues have incited two weeks of protests, which recently turned violent as demonstrators in the country's energy-rich eastern provinces stormed public offices, blocked roads and seized gas fields.
At least eight people were killed and 20 injured Thursday, according to authorities, as anti-government protesters fought Morales's backers in eastern Bolivia and seized more natural gas fields.
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 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.