Obama Denies U.S. Involvement in Bolivian Assassination Plot

Perhaps the most bizarre moment in President Obama's visit to Latin America -- a trip that has been full of theatrics and oddities -- came during his press conference today in Trinidad when he responded to suggestions by Bolivian President Evo Morales that the United States may have been behind an assassination attempt against him on Thursday.

"I just want to be absolutely clear that I am absolutely opposed and condemn any efforts at violent overthrows of democratically elected governments -- wherever it happens in the hemisphere," Obama said. "That is not the policy of our government."

During a meeting Obama held Saturday with the 12 leaders of the nations of South America, Morales asked him to repudiate the incident , during which Bolivian police killed three attackers, including an Irishman and a Romanian.

"Obama said three things: There are neither senior or junior partners," Morales told reporters, explaining his need for the U.S. president to denounce the plot. "He said relations should be of mutual respect, and he spoke of change. In Bolivia ... one doesn't feel any change. The policy of conspiracy continues."

Morales said if Obama were to refuse to condemn the plot, "I might think it was organized through the embassy."

Back in Bolivia, Morales opponent and Santa Cruz Gov. Ruben Costas said the half-hour shoot-out in his town was "cheaply staged, this is a show." It wasn't the first time an opponent of Morales has accused him of staging a fake assassination attempt against himself.

- jpt

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