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US Ambassador Unhurt in Caracas Protest Incident

In Caracas, Venezuela Friday, supporters of President Hugo Chavez threw rocks, eggs and fruit at a vehicle carrying U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield from a stadium where he had donated baseball equipment to a local team. No one was injured in the incident, but the ambassador sees it as an escalation in hostile anti-U.S. actions.

Ambassador Brownfield was at a baseball stadium in Caracas with a few embassy staff members and his normal security detail when he says a representative of the local city precinct told him he would have to leave. He says the 300 or so people in the stadium were friendly and appreciative of the donations he had made, but that when he left a large, hostile crowd awaited him outside.

He says they threw mostly eggs, fruit and vegetables at his car and shouted slogans that made clear that they were supporters of President Chavez. Ambassador Brownfield spoke to VOA by telephone from the embassy in Caracas.

"Outside, the ladies and gentlemen who were protesting, stoning, egging, tomatoing, and following, identified themselves, at least by their shouts and their screams, as members of the Tupamaros of Caracas," he said. "In Venezuela, the Tupamaros is a clandestine organization, who describe themselves as urban guerrillas, who describe themselves as supporters of the current government."

After he left the stadium, Ambassador Brownfield says his vehicle and another embassy vehicle traveling with him became stuck in traffic. At that point another group of protesters, all of whom were riding motorcycles, surrounded his vehicle and began pounding it. The motorcyclists followed the embassy vehicles for a few kilometers before breaking off the attack.

The U.S. ambassador says this was not the first time such groups have attacked him. He says this was the third time in as many weeks that he has been targeted by these groups.

Brownfield says he learned later Friday that the Chavez government had expressed concern about the incident and he says he hopes something can be done to prevent future attacks.

"It is my understanding that the Foreign Ministry has called my office twice, immediately after the event, to find out largely what happened and to express concern and another representative from the office of the vice president also called to find out what had happened and whether I was alrightm" he said. "I do not think we have yet started any dialogue in terms of how to fix the situation and make sure it does not happen again or to reduce the risk that it would happen again."

Ambassador Brownfield says his visit to the stadium Friday did not have a political motive and was solely for the purpose of supporting the local baseball team. He says he has made similar donations to teams all over Venezuela in the past year.

Relations between the United States and Venezuela have soured in recent years and President Chavez has repeatedly accused Washington of trying to undermine his government.