- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

CARACAS, Venezuela — Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez pelted the U.S. ambassador’s car with fruit, vegetables and eggs yesterday, and a group of motorcyclists chased his convoy for miles, at times pounding on the cars, a U.S. Embassy official said. No one was hurt.

Embassy spokesman Brian Penn said Venezuelan police escorts did not intervene as the car carrying Ambassador William Brownfield was pounded and pelted.

“We’re being attacked by groups of motorcyclists while we’re traveling in an embassy car,” Mr. Penn said by cell phone shortly before the motorcycles stopped chasing the four-car convoy.

“It’s a very violent demonstration by a small group of people who appear to be organized by the mayor’s office,” Mr. Penn said.

The Caracas mayor’s office, however, denied any involvement. “No official authorized by the mayor’s office participated,” said Luis Martinez, a spokesman for Mayor Juan Barreto.

Mr. Brownfield has faced protests at recent appearances. Mr. Chavez has repeatedly accused Washington of conspiring to overthrow him, an accusation U.S. officials have denied. The U.S. Embassy has asked the Venezuelan government to improve security for the ambassador, saying it’s legally bound to do so, Mr. Penn said.

He said the protest began when Brownfield visited a baseball stadium in southern Caracas to hand out bats and other donated equipment to a youth league.

During the event, a Chavez supporter who wore an identification badge of the pro-Chavez mayor’s office walked up and said the people in the area wanted Mr. Brownfield to leave, Mr. Penn said.

Mr. Brownfield stayed and finished the event, by which time a protest by a few dozen people had formed outside, chanting “Go home. Go home.”

Mr. Penn said the barrage of fruit, vegetables and eggs began when the convoy finally pulled out and drove through an adjacent market. He said National Guard troops were on hand and pushed the crowd back as the cars passed through.

“They were pounding on the cars, including pounding on the ambassador’s car while they were driving. There was no one stopping them,” Penn said.

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