WASHINGTON - The Bush administration responded to Bolivia's ouster of the U.S. ambassador by ordering the expulsion of Bolivia's ambassador from Washington. Venezuela also entered the fray, expelling the American ambassador and recalling theirs.
"In response to unwarranted actions and in accordance with the Vienna Convention (on diplomatic protocol), we have officially informed the government of Bolivia of our decision to declare Ambassador Gustavo Guzman persona non grata," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
It was unclear exactly how long Guzman would have to leave the United States but diplomats declared "persona non grata" are generally given 72 hours to depart. Guzman had been summoned to the department earlier Thursday and told of the decision a day after Bolivia expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, officials said.
Bolivia's leftist President Evo Morales had ordered Goldberg out, accusing him of conspiring with Bolivia's conservative opposition. McCormack earlier had called that a "grave error" and warned that Bolivia would face retaliatory actions for the expulsion, which he said had inflicted serious damage on U.S.-Bolivian relations.
In La Paz, Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca told reporters that he formally had requested Goldberg's expulsion but added that he also wrote Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to say Bolivia "wishes to maintain bilateral relations."