Sat, Mar 25, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Bolivian president suggests US had role in bombings

AP , LA PAZ

US diplomats expressed concern at suggestions by Bolivia's left-leaning president that Washington had a role in hotel bombings that killed two people, saying his comments could impede efforts to cooperate in the fight against terror.

A Bolivian judge on Thursday charged a mentally disturbed American and his Uruguayan lover with murder and falsifying documents for the two bombings of the low-budget hotels late on Tuesday and early on Wednesday that left two people dead and seven injured.

Triston Jay Amero, 24, and his pregnant partner, Alda Ribeiro, 45, were ordered held in "preventive detention" pending trial by Judge Williams Davila, who said he would evaluate Amero's request for a psychiatric evaluation as well as Ribeiro's request for a medical exam.

As he was charged, Amero said he had "done nothing wrong."

Bolivian President Evo Morales denounced the bombings as attacks on the nation's democracy.

"This American was putting bombs in hotels," Morales said on Wednesday. "The US government fights terrorism, and they send us terrorists."

Morales comments prompted an equally emphatic response from the US State Department, which said the Bolivian leader's remark harmed their governments' efforts to cooperate against terrorism.

"Declarations such as these impede our efforts and block our capacity to cooperate" in anti-terrorism efforts, the US embassy in La Paz said in a statement on Thursday.

In Washington, Thomas Shannon, assistant US secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said he was "surprised" by Morales's comments.

Shannon said Washington had expressed its concern over the comments to Bolivia's government, according to his spokesman Eric Watnik.

Morales strongly opposes US-led efforts to eliminate cultivation in Bolivia of coca, the main ingredient used to make cocaine. Coca is also used for traditional purposes in Bolivia. Morales' close ties with Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have also strained relations with Washington.

Amero has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals since he was seven years old after making constant threats of suicide and violence against authorities, according to court documents. He also spent years in California's juvenile prisons after being convicted of fleeing the scene of an accident and spitting on a judge and court clerk.

Amero also created lists of people he would kill when released -- including his own mother and former US president Bill Clinton.

"Amero keeps to himself and appears to like to be seen as a rebel and [an] outlaw," corrections officials wrote in court documents.

Bolivian authorities have struggled to understand the motives of a man who has described himself as a Saudi Arabian lawyer, a pagan high priest, a notary public and even a vampire, having adopted "Lestat Claudius de Orleans y Montevideo" as his name, a variation on the character in Anne Rice's dark novels, played on film by Tom Cruise.

Amero's partner Ribeiro said on Thursday that her "husband"had acted alone and was solely responsible for the bombings.

Authorities were unsure whether the couple were married.

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