News24

Firearms in US embassy car 'a threat'

2012-03-28 09:04

La Paz - Firearms found by Bolivian police in a US embassy van on Tuesday - an incident called a threat to national security - are for local police tasked with protecting US installations, US diplomats said.

Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero earlier said the discovery of three Remington shotguns, a 38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver and more than 2000 38-caliber cartridges had "put the security of the nation in danger".

The weapons were found when the embassy vehicle was stopped and checked in the city of Trinidad, in north-eastern Bolivia.

In a statement in Spanish, the US embassy said it "provides a limited amount of weapons and ammunition to the Bolivian police for the protection of our diplomatic installations, as we do in many countries around the world".

Bolivian authorities "were properly informed of the scheduled weapons transfer" on Monday, the embassy said.

Police also found a computer and three items that Romero described as "communications equipment".

The van was stopped as it was entering the headquarters of the UMOPAR, an anti-drug police unit funded and equipped by the US government, a separate government statement read.

Tense relations

The embassy promised full cooperation into any Bolivian probe of the incident.

Under President Evo Morales, a close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Bolivia and the United States have had tense relations.

Ties took a turn for the worse under former US leader George W Bush, with the expulsion of ambassadors from both countries in late 2008. Agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration were also ejected from La Paz.

A slight improvement took hold two years ago, with a series of bilateral meetings, and a three-way agreement between Bolivia, the US and Brazil late last year on battling illegal coca production.

In late February, La Paz and Washington announced that they would exchange ambassadors as soon as this year, but earlier this month, Morales warned he would shut the US embassy if Washington interfered in his country's affairs.