By Jack Chang
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is poised to suspend lucrative trade benefits to Bolivia in a move that could further worsen tensions between the U.S. and the impoverished South American country.
Administration officials say that Bolivia has failed to cooperate in drug control, which makes the country ineligible to export jewelry, textiles and other manufactured items duty-free to the U.S. under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act.
Bolivian officials counter that the threatened action has nothing to do with drug enforcement but is in retaliation for Bolivian President Evo Morales’ expulsion of the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, last month. The U.S. responded to that move by expelling the Bolivian ambassador to Washington.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close Morales ally, sided with Morales by expelling the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela, prompting the U.S. to kick out Venezuela’s ambassador.