A Case for Extradition: Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and Carlos Sanchez Berzain
September 3, 2008 - Council on Hemispheric Affairs - Press release 08.90
This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Jacob Abeyta
Whether or not the United States should extradite former Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and his former defense minister, Carlos Sanchez Berzain, to stand in a 'Trial of Responsibility' concerning intense civil unrest in 2003 which resulted in government-ordered suppression of civilian protestors, is an issue which is at once emotionally and politically charged. It is not simply an academic exercise due to the fact that a formal extradition request from the Bolivian government can be expected soon and civil suits already have been filed in U.S. district courts. While the matter is relatively unknown to the American people, U.S. civil libertarians and the Bush administration's regional policymakers have taken strong opposing stands. Those closely following the matter, which involved Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain's security forces gunning down scores of anti-government protestors, see a solid case for the revocation of U.S. political asylum for the two high-ranking Bolivian figures, as well as their extradition back to Bolivia.
Bloodshed, Flight, and Asylum
In Bolivia, the year 2003 was filled with violence and chaos. Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada had narrowly won a second, non-consecutive presidential term the year before, with only 22.5 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, he interpreted this slender margin of victory as a mandate to move forward with exceptionally contentious policies involving the export of newly discovered natural gas to the U.S. and Mexico via Chile, along with a series of economic austerity measures. In a country demographically dominated by traditionally marginalized indigenous peoples (55 percent Quechua or Aymara, 30 percent mestizo, and 15 percent white, according to the CIA World Fact Book), where almost two-thirds of the population live in poverty, and which historically has had its natural resources plundered by a tiny, self-absorbed elite, Sanchez de Lozada was grossly negligent in failing to sell his economic plans to the populace. By the end of February 2003, more than 30 people had been killed and over 200 were injured by security forces and Sanchez de Lozada's increasingly unpopular government was losing its grip on power. The 'Gas Wars' of September and 'Black October' delivered telling blows against Bolivia's stability. Responding to widespread public protests, Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain again unleashed the military, this time resulting in 67 deaths and more than 500 injuries.
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