The expulsion of the U.S. ambassadors from Bolivia and Venezuela sadly reflects the increasing spiral of radicalism, paranoia and bad behavior that are the hallmarks of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and his closest ally, Evo Morales. It is a rejection of models of civility and diplomatic cooperation and hemispheric solidarity once fostered by the statesmen of the Americas. A hunger for power, authority, and endless praise have become the hallmarks of these radical populist leaders.

We agree with the Department of State statement of today that the expulsion of the ambassadors, “reflects the weakness and desperation of these leaders as they face serious internal challenges and an inability to communicate effectively internationally in order to build international support.”

The action is a rebuff to two professional ambassadors and to leaders like Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Thomas J. Shannon, who have worked tirelessly to promote a positive agenda for the Americas. We agree that “the only meaningful conspiracy in the region is the common commitment of democratic countries to enhance opportunities for their citizens. The only overthrow we seek is that of poverty.”

Those who shout the loudest are not making the real news in the Americas. The real story of our time is the quiet, evolutionary change promoted by pragmatic governments and their constituencies who want to improve the lives of their citizens. Those changes will not occur over night, and we still have work to be done. But we are on the right path, and will continue to work with our democratic partners to better the lives of our citizens.

Chavez, after insulting the U.S. and the Bush Administration, condescended to say, “when there is a new government in the U.S., we’ll send a new ambassador.”

He should ask himself who in Washington — Democrat or Republican — will receive the emissary of one so filled with venom and deep-seated anti-Americanism.