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Venezuelan protesters pelt US envoy's car with eggs

Written by: Staff

CARACAS, Venezuela, Apr 7 (Reuters) Demonstrators pelted the US 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 US 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 organiSations.

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.

US 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. US officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have said they plan to continue the flow of funds as a way to confront Chavez.

Reuters OM VP0235

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