President Evo Morales drew a sharp denial from the U.S. Embassy when he claimed in a speech to thousands of poor supporters that the United States is sending soldiers disguised as students and tourists to Bolivia.
The accusation, which the U.S. Embassy dismissed as unfounded Wednesday, comes as Morales faces attacks by political opponents for his cozy relationship with President Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, including accepting aid from that country's military.
Morales said during his speech Tuesday that U.S. Ambassador David Greenlee had sought a meeting with him.
"He asked for a meeting. I don't know what he's looking to discuss. I'm not at all afraid of talking or perhaps he's angry," Morales said.
"But I also have the right to complain because U.S. soldiers disguised as students and tourists are entering the country," said Morales, a leftist Aymara Indian who has pledged revolutionary changes for the poor, including his recent move to nationalize Bolivia's natural gas industry.
Morales offered no evidence to back his claim. His spokesman, Alex Contreras, said Morales would provide evidence, though he did not say when.
The U.S. Embassy issued a statement calling Morales' accusation "unfounded."
"We reiterate once more that we are supporting Bolivian democracy in a consistent way," the embassy said.
U.S. military Special Operations teams have been sent to Latin America for the last few years. U.S. officials have said the teams are not covert, and are known to the host governments, but won't say where they're deployed. A Washington Post report in April noted the teams were in 20 countries worldwide, and that the defense department is no longer required to get U.S. ambassadorial approval for their missions, reports AP.
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