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Jan 22, 3:27 PM EST

US envoy expresses hope for normalized Bolivia ties

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LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) -- The U.S. delegation chief attending Bolivian President Evo Morales' third inauguration says he hopes the two countries can soon normalize relations.

Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski told reporters Thursday after meeting with Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca Paz that it's a "step-by-step" process and he hopes Morales and U.S. President Barack Obama can soon meet.

Bolivia's first indigenous president took a customary swipe at Washington in his inaugural address.

Morales said: "The Americans aren't in charge here anymore. The Indians are." Then he uncharacteristically apologized to the U.S. delegation.

The two countries have been without ambassadors since 2008, when Morales expelled the top U.S. diplomat for allegedly inciting the opposition. Morales also expelled the DEA.

In 2013, the longtime coca-growers union leader booted the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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