Bush Admin. Warns Venezuela to Stop Harassing U.S. Ambassador

The Bush administration may severely restrict the movements of Venezuela's ambassador if pro-government activists in Venezuela engage in any more "thuggish" activities against U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield, a spokesman said Monday.

There have been four incidents of harassment directed at Brownfield in recent weeks, including one last Friday when his convoy was pelted with eggs, tomatoes and other food. The convoy was also pummeled by motorcyclists during a miles-long chase through Caracas.

"If we see an incident like this again, I think that there are going to be serious diplomatic consequences between our two countries. And I think that the Venezuelan ambassador might find his ability to move around the United States severely restricted," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Another official said the administration may take steps to prevent Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez from leaving the grounds of his residence here. The official asked not to be identified because the issue is still under study.

The residence is located in the western part of Washington in the embassy row area.

McCormack expressed hope that retaliatory measures won't be necessary.

"We don't want it to get to that point," he said. "We want Venezuela to fulfill its obligations under the Vienna Convention to help provide protection for our diplomats there."

He reaffirmed the U.S. view that the harassment of Brownfield was not a spontaneous act but was planned by government officials.

Friday's incident occurred when Brownfield was at a stadium in Caracas to deliver baseball equipment to underprivileged youngsters.

On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened to expel Brownfield, accusing him of repeatedly engaging in provocative behavior.

McCormack withheld comment on the personal attacks Chavez delivered against President Bush. Among other disparaging remarks, Chavez said Bush was genocidal.

I'm just not going to take the bait on this," he said, adding that the United States is still seeking good relations with Venezuela.