Bolivian president criticizes U.S. rejection of travel visas

Bolivian President Evo Morales criticized Washington on Monday for rejecting travel visas for two of his political allies, calling it an "open provocation by the government of the United States."

"To get a visa, it seems like you have to be corrupt, a murderer, then you're protected," Morales said, referring to former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who has lived in Washington since fleeing Bolivia in 2003 after street protest that left 60 people dead.

Rene Orellana, Bolivia's vice minister of water, was unable to attend a meeting in Washington after his visa application was rejected last week.

The visa was apparently denied due to a technical error that is being looked into, said David Greenlee, U.S. ambassador to Bolivia.

In February, Leonilda Zurita, a congresswoman belonging to Morales' Movement Toward Socialism party, had her U.S. visa revoked. Zurita said Washington cited an alleged link between her and terrorist activities which she denies.

On Friday, Morales asked Greenlee to provide him a list of Bolivians not allowed to enter the United States, saying he would make his own list of Americans he would bar from Bolivia.

"We don't have lists; we're not going to make lists; we're not going to share lists," Greenlee said Sunday.

Greenlee added that he regretted Morales' stance, and defended the U.S. government's right to choose who gets visas.

"We're waiting for them to pass me the list," Morales said Monday. "If they pass it to me, I'll say which Americans can't (enter Bolivia) people that falsely accuse social leaders."

Since assuming the presidency in January, Morales, a leftist and close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro, has frequently accused the U.S. government of trying to destabilize his government and of interfering in internal affairs.

Morales has also resisted U.S.-funded coca eradication efforts. Coca is the key ingredient in cocaine, although it also has legal traditional uses in Bolivia, reports AP.


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