Bolivian groups seek extradition of former president
Published Dec 21, 2006 10:17 PM
In Bolivia, a coalition of social movements has formed a committee, Comité
Impulsor, to work towards the extradition of former President Gonzalo
Sánchez de Lozada, who is living in the United States. The groups want him
to face trial for massacres against his own people and for ransacking the
treasury of Bolivia, the poorest country in South America.
A group of progressive U.S. lawyers will be traveling to Bolivia this January
as part of a National Lawyers Guild delegation to meet with activists of this
committee and families of Sánchez de Lozada’s victims from the
Indigenous, working class city of El Alto. They intend to bring information
concerning this case to the progressive movement in the U.S.
Sánchez de Lozada is another in a long line of former presidents and
nefarious terrorists and gangsters—such as Toto Constant of Haiti and
Posada Carriles of Cuba—who, after working to carry out imperialist
dictates in Third World countries, are given safe haven in the U.S. when they
are no longer useful to their masters. The Bolivian social movements are
determined that Sánchez de Lozada, who currently resides in the
Washington, D.C., area, will answer to the people of Bolivia for his
Sánchez de Lozada was twice president of Bolivia. His second presidential
campaign in 2000 was strongly supported by the International Monetary Fund and
the U.S. He ran a slick media campaign managed by none other than Bill
Clinton’s campaign manager, James Carville.
Sánchez de Lozada quickly began to implement the policies of the IMF. He
privatized state assets and cut social spending to free up capital for transfer
to multi-national corporations and the local comprador bourgeoisie, while
neglecting the needs of the poor majority.
In February of 2003 the Sánchez de Lozada government tried to implement an
income tax to make up for a budget deficit caused in large part by the
privatization of the oil and gas industries. This tax would have been
devastating to the poor. A strike and demonstrations opposing the tax were
begun, interestingly enough, by police unions in the capital of La Paz. With
the police on strike, sections of the Bolivian working class, students and
masses of Indigenous people from the nearby suburb of El Alto were emboldened
to come out in large numbers. The government attacked these demonstrations,
using the Bolivian military and killing several people. The government withdrew
the tax and survived, but the Bolivian social movements continued to
In October 2003, the Sánchez de Lozada government began to negotiate for
the sale of mass quantities of gas to Chile. The Bolivian people became alarmed
that the government was going to sell off all the nation’s natural
resources, with apparently no benefit for the country, and rose up in strikes
and protests all over the nation. The social movements massed in La Paz and
demanded the nationalization of Bolivia’s oil and gas industries and the
resignation of President Sánchez de Lozada. The president sent in the army
against the people and approximately 67 people were killed.
The social movements led strikes and blockades that eventually forced
Sánchez de Lozada to flee the country. Since then, Bolivia has elected its
first Indigenous president, Evo Morales.
The effort to extradite Sánchez de Lozada faces many challenges in both
Bolivia and the United States. In Bolivia the military and members of the
former ruling classes have attempted to block this extradition. The Bush
administration has so far refused to cooperate with Bolivia concerning service
of process—the legal notice to a defendant of a court’s
jurisdiction over that person.
Bolivian activists feel that this issue is important to the future of the
Bolivian revolutionary process and are asking for solidarity from progressives
in the United States.
Burton will be taking part in the lawyers’ delegation to Bolivia in
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