U.S. asks envoy to Bolivia to come home to consult
June 16, 2008 - Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has asked its envoy to Bolivia to return home after violent protests a week ago at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, and warned Bolivia to meet its obligations to protect diplomats, the State Department said on Monday.

Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg "will return to Washington for consultations on embassy security" after the protests June 9, State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said in a statement.

Thousands of rock-throwing supporters of leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales protested outside the embassy, demanding the United States send home two right-wing Bolivian politicians.

Hundreds of police in riot gear struggled to keep the demonstrators away from the fortress-like embassy and ended up firing tear gas to disperse them.

Gallegos said that the United States appreciated the efforts of the Bolivian police, but was concerned by statements of some Bolivian government officials that "cast doubt" on Bolivia's commitment to fulfill international conventions on protecting diplomats and their facilities.

"We expect the Bolivian government to continue to meet its international obligations under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations," Gallegos said in his statement.

"Failure to fulfill these responsibilities would endanger both American citizens and the hundreds of Bolivians who work in the embassy or make daily use of embassy consular and other diplomatic facilities."

The protesters blame former Defense Minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain and ex-President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada of ordering a military crackdown on anti-government protests in October 2003, when 60 people died and hundreds were injured.

Sanchez de Lozada stepped down as president soon after, and both men fled to the United States.

Sanchez Berzain lives in Miami. His declarations to Bolivian radio that he had received political asylum in the United States sparked the protests last Monday.