AP re-entitled | 18.10.2003 11:11 | World
October 18, 2003
U.S. Military Sends Team to Bolivia
WASHINGTON (AP) - A military team dispatched by the Pentagon is traveling to Bolivia to assess security at the U.S. Embassy following violent anti-government riots and the collapse of the government.
The team of fewer than six military experts was sent to La Paz, the capital, as the government of Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada was coming apart. Vice President Carlos Mesa took office as Bolivia's new president late Friday.
In a statement Saturday, the State Department said the United States regrets the events that led to fall of the government and commended Sanchez de Lozada ''for his commitment to democracy and to the well being of his country.''
''It is now the responsibility of Bolivians to take steps to end political polarization and to guarantee respect for human life and the rule of law,'' the statement said.
The outrage against the president was sparked by a controversial proposal to export natural gas to the United States and Mexico through neighboring Chile.
The American military planners will assess the situation on La Paz's streets and recommend possible changes to the embassy's evacuation and protection plans, said Army Lt. Col. Bill Costello, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command.
Southern Command, responsible for U.S. troops in Central and South America, decided to send the team despite the lack of a request from either the State Department or the Bolivian government, Costello said.
''It's not something we've been directed to do,'' Costello said Friday. ''The commanders, as they monitored developments, thought it was a prudent thing to do to look at the situation.''
The United States normally has fewer than 30 military personnel in Bolivia, Costello said.
Costello said the team would take commercial flights into La Paz, although military planes have had to airlift thousands of stranded foreigners from there.