Sat, Jul 07, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US ambassador bids farewell to Venezuela


US State Department aspirants to become Washington's top envoy to Venezuela take note: Ambassador William Brownfield is leaving after three years on the job, dealing with incidents ranging from the pelting of his motorcade with eggs to expulsion threats from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Brownfield offered "two rules for anyone who holds this job in the future" in an interview on Thursday before he left for Bogota, where he is to be the US ambassador to Colombia.

"You absolutely have to have the patience of Job; if you are not an extremely patient man or woman, this job will drive you crazy," said Brownfield, a West Texas native who was called "the Texan" by Venezuelan news outlets for his swaggering approach to verbal tit-for-tats with Chavez's government.

"The second rule is that you had better have a sense of humor, because if you don't have a sense a humor in this particular country at this particular point in time, you will quickly become suicidal," Brownfield said.

His taste for irony was on display at an Independence Day celebration at the embassy this week where he wore a T-shirt reading, "Uh! Ah! Brownfield IS Leaving!" a play on a pro-Chavez slogan ("Chavez is NOT leaving") chanted at rallies. (The shirt was bright red, the color identified with the Chavez administration.)

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro called Brownfield's term in Venezuela as a "failure."

"We advise our Colombian brothers to have much caution," Maduro said on Thursday. "William Brownfield came to Venezuela with one mission: to destabilize the government of President Chavez and assist in toppling him."

"This relationship is probably going to get worse before it gets better," said Brownfield, who tried to ease tensions during his time here through donations of mitts and bats at baseball diamonds throughout the country. "We have to accept that reality."

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