April 7, 2006

Venezuelan protesters pelt US envoy’s car with eggs

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Demonstrators pelted the
U.S. ambassador's car with eggs and vegetables and chased his
convoy on a motorbike after he was forced to leave a charity
event in the latest incident highlighting the sour relations
between the two countries.

The U.S. Embassy in Caracas said Ambassador William
Brownfield was ordered to leave the event by a municipal
official and his car came under the barrage from protesters

as it departed.

"They told them they had no right to be there. As they were
leaving, (the cars) went through a gauntlet of eggs and
vegetables," said an embassy spokeswoman.

Supporters of President Hugo Chavez on motorbikes pursued
the ambassador's convoy for 15 minutes as it was leaving a
baseball field in a poor Caracas neighborhood where the embassy
had donated baseball equipment to a youth club, she said.

A municipal government spokesman denied that account,
saying officials "did not intervene, it was the community" that
demanded Brownfield leave.

It was the third time in the past month that Brownfield has
faced open antagonism at public events.

Police had to escort him from of a meeting in the southern
state of Guarico last month after about 100 demonstrators
burning tires and an American flag blockaded the building where
he was holding talks with business leaders.

A smaller protest occurred the eastern city of Cumana as
Brownfield met with local organizations.

The incidents have underscored the frayed diplomatic ties
between the United States and the leftist government of Chavez,
who has promised a socialist revolution to end poverty in his
oil-producing nation.

Chavez frequently taunts and insults President George W.
Bush, whom he has accused of plotting to assassinate him and of
planning to invade Venezuela to oust him.

U.S. officials describe Chavez, an ally of Cuba and Iran,
as a fledgling dictator who is threatening regional stability.

The United States has poured millions of dollars into
financing to a opposition-aligned group in Venezuela since
Chavez came to office in 1999. U.S. officials, including
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have said they plan to
continue the flow of funds as a way to confront Chavez.