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U.S. envoy: I didn't incite Bolivian violence

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  • Philip Goldberg denied that he encouraged anti-government demonstrators
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales said Goldberg was no longer welcome in Bolivia
  • Goldberg met with leader of protesters demonstrating against Morales
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Ambassador to Bolivia Philip Goldberg denied Thursday that he encouraged anti-government demonstrators to commit violence in the Latin American nation.

U.S. envoy Philip Goldberg on Thursday dismissed the notion that he incited protesters in Bolivia.

"As I said in my declaration in La Paz, it is absolutely false, without foundation," he said.

Goldberg called it "irresponsible" to talk about events that didn't happen.

"And it is very unfortunate that the Bolivian government has said something that is absolutely outside the truth," he said at a roundtable sponsored by the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said September 10, "Without fear of anyone, without fear of the empire, today before you, before the Bolivian people, I declare the ambassador of the United States persona non grata."

Persona non grata literally means "an unwelcome person."

Goldberg said Thursday that Morales may have been influenced by Hugo Chavez, the leftist president of Venezuela known for his an antagonistic relationship with Washington.

But Adam Isacson of the Washington-based foreign policy think-tank Center for International Policy said Goldberg contributed to the crisis by meeting with Ruben Costas.

Costas is the prefect of Santa Cruz, a pro-autonomy eastern department where much of the violence took place. This month, demonstrators in Santa Cruz protested Morales' plans to redistribute the country's natural gas revenues.

"The message received, since it occurred amid the escalation in violence, that message was distorted in the perception of many Bolivians," Isacson said. "It may have been seen as an approval of the acts of violence."

Goldberg maintained that he held similar meetings with European diplomats that generated no controversy and that Morales' attack on the United States is part of his political strategy.

At stake now is the fate of U.S. tariff preferences that Bolivia receives as an incentive to fight against narcotrafficking that are slated to expire at the end of the year.

All About BoliviaEvo MoralesPhilip Goldberg

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