- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2008

CAPITOL COMMENTS

The diplomatic showdown in Washington, Bolivia and Venezuela is reverberating on Capitol Hill, where members of Congress are denouncing the leaders of the South American nations for expelling the U.S. ambassadors and demanding stronger measures in response.

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, called the expulsions of Ambassadors Patrick Duddy from Venezuela and Philip Goldberg from Bolivia “provocative” actions that were “completely uncalled for and unjustified.”

The New York Democrat questioned whether Venezuela’s populist, anti-American president, Hugo Chavez, is more concerned with escalating tensions with the United States than with ending poverty.

“If President Chavez is really serious about helping the poor, then he should stop this nonsense and provocation towards the U.S. and work in partnership with nations throughout the region to tackle real problems head on,” Mr. Engel said.

Rep. Dan Burton, the senior Republican on the subcommittee, call on the House to refuse to extend favorable trade measures to Bolivia.

“Through its recent actions, the government of Bolivia has shown its lack of desire to have a constructive relationship with the United States, and I can no longer support providing it with preferential treatment,” the Indiana Republican said.

The Bush administration retaliated diplomatically by expelling Bolivian Ambassador Gustavo Guzman. Mr. Chavez recalled his ambassador, Bernardo Alvarez.

The United States also imposed sanctions against three of Mr. Chavez’s top aides, accusing them of helping arm Marxist rebels trying to overthrow the pro-American government in Colombia.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Monday

Bernard-Henri Levy, a noted French philosopher, who participates in a forum at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Tuesday

Ann Bernstein of South Africa’s Center for Development and Enterprise. She discusses democracy and development in South Africa at a luncheon sponsored by the International Forum for Democratic Studies and the Center for International Private Enterprise.

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