A Case for Extradition: Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and Carlos Sanchez Berzain

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.

In reaction to this growing mayhem, tension began to mount, until the president and his defense minister suddenly fled the country on October 17, 2003. Throughout the growing stand-off, Washington staunchly supported the Sanchez de Lozada administration until the day he and Berzain went into exile, and has since allowed them to reside in this country. Both are accused by La Paz of ordering the use of flagrantly disproportionate and deadly force against the primarily indigenous protesters, who were wielding mostly sticks and stones. In 2004, a two-thirds majority in the Bolivian Congress voted to initiate a formal legal case against the two Bolivian leaders. The country’s Supreme Court has further declared them to be in contempt of court and accordingly issued warrants for their arrest. Although Letters Rogatory have been dispatched from Bolivian courts to U.S. authorities, the latter remains mostly silent and uncooperative. Ironically, Sanchez de Lozada signed a bilateral extradition treaty with the U.S. in 1995, during his first term as president. The treaty took effect in 1996.

On June 3, 2008, Berzain’s lawyers announced that the U.S. had, in fact, quietly granted the former defense minister political asylum in 2007; once Washington’s actions became known, they sparked demonstrations back in Bolivia, which were attended by thousands of protestors. The mainly indigenous demonstrators surrounded the U.S. Embassy and demanded the return of Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain. From the onset, it was widely believed that Sanchez de Lozada had been or soon would be granted political asylum. Both claimed to be bonafide “refugees” fleeing political persecution. Berzain has gone so far as to say that, due to his previous involvement in Bolivia’s counter-drug operations, if returned to Bolivia, he would be tortured or killed. But Bolivia is not known for drug-related violence, and the current Morales administration has continued crop eradication programs, even improving the interdiction process in the meantime. Meanwhile, U.S. government officials have insisted all along that the process of granting asylum is an apolitical, judicial matter, yet it is widely known that the Department of Justice consistently acts in accordance with politicized recommendations submitted by the Department of State when the asylum issue is being vetted. Citing privacy grounds, the U.S. refuses to disclose or discuss the former Bolivian politicians’ immigration status.

U.S. Civil Actions
On September 26, 2007, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights and Harvard University filed civil cases in the U.S. against Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain on behalf of the families of ten Bolivian victims of Black October. The cases are being presented in accordance with the Alien Tort Statute and the Torture Victim Protection Act. The former president’s case was originally filed in a Maryland District Court, as he currently lives in Chevy Chase, MD. The lawsuit against Berzain was filed in a Florida District Court since the former defense minister now resides in Key Biscayne, Florida. On April 15th of this year, Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain’s mutual attorney, Greg Craig (see COHA’s recent article, “Obama Advisor Greg Craig: A Man of Merit,” by Research Associates Mike Katz and Chris Sweeney) succeeded in having Sanchez de Lozada’s lawsuit transferred to Florida, a venue likely to be more sympathetic to his client.

Both of the civil cases against the Bolivian emigrants seek compensatory and punitive damages based on charges of extrajudicial killing, crimes against humanity, violations of the rights to life, liberty, and security of person and freedom of assembly and association. Berzain is further accused of intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligence. General allegations in court documents assert that, “extrajudicial killings…were part of a pattern and practice of widespread, systematic attacks against the civilian population…[and that]…rather than taking necessary steps to prevent additional violence, [the defendants] escalated the attacks against the civilian population.” Specifically, these documents assert that the security forces under Lozada and Berzain heavily relied on machine guns and sharpshooters armed with high-powered rifles to restore order. It is noted that in Bolivia, usually officers, and not conscripts, carry automatic weapons. Some plaintiffs have claimed that their loved ones were killed in their own homes, often located far from the scenes of actual conflict, by a single bullet fired from considerable distance. It has been further noted that only officers are normally trained as sharpshooters. There also have been accusations made of shootings from helicopters.

The veracity of Sanchez de Lozada’s and Berzain’s accounts regarding the formal procedures they implemented during Black October has also been opened to question. The aforementioned court documents point out that the pair had authorized Executive Decree 27209 declaring a state of emergency on October 11, 2003, after falsely stating in the decree that there had been a full Council of Ministers meeting on that day when this demonstrably was not the case. The decree also states that all of the Cabinet ministers had signed the document on October 11th, when in truth some signatures were not obtained until days later. Additionally, Executive Decree 27209 was not presented to the public following proper legal procedures. The decree should have been immediately published in the Official Gazette of Bolivia, however it was not published until October 17th.

A Case for Extradition
Sanchez de Lozada’s own vice-president at the time, Carlos Mesa, publicly denounced the bloody suppression of protesters during Black October. Appearing on television the morning of October 13, 2003, Mesa bluntly stated, “Neither as a citizen nor as a man of principles can I accept that, faced with popular pressure, the response should be death.” In disavowing Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain’s methods, Mesa explicitly and powerfully brings into relief the decisions which led up to pursuing deeply divisive policies at gun-point.

Although Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain may have acted out of a professed concern for Bolivia’s macroeconomic health and a need to break a general strike that included the widespread setting up of roadblocks, their critics contend that the wanton actions that they sanctioned deserve unqualified condemnation and that they must stand trial. That Bolivia presents a singular setting in terms of geographic, political, economic, social, and ethnic divisions requiring special sensitivity because of the volatility of the mix, makes the case for extradition more, rather than less, urgent. Bolivia’s system of justice has suffered from endemic exclusion and impunity; the international community should demand and facilitate the pursuit of truth and justice there.

Ideally, a thorough inquiry, perhaps monitored by outside dignitaries and specialists, should assess Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain’s contention that President Morales and other leaders of Bolivia’s popular movement also bear a measure of responsibility for helping to provoke the ill-fated events of late 2003. If incitements to violence can be reasonably proven, the case against the former president and his defense minister might be weakened or even thrown out. However, even this would not completely absolve them of the responsibility to answer for their actions in Bolivian courts; at the most, it would only mean that culpability should, in some measure, be shared.

In granting Berzain asylum, the U.S. government has declared there to be well-founded fears that he—and, by logical extension, Sanchez de Lozada—would likely suffer political persecution in Bolivia. This assessment appears to be a political, not a legal, judgment made by the State Department and is yet another example of a politicized system of selective justice which serves the White House’s ideological prejudices.

Arguments that the charges against Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain are simply a political hit job concocted by Morales and that a fair trial is impossible under these conditions do not stand up to scrutiny. An effective refutation of these arguments can be found in The Andean Information Network’s June 23, 2008 article “AIN Critiques Gamarra…” wherein it is noted that a two-thirds majority of the Bolivian Congress sanctioned the charges against Sanchez de Lozada before Morales had been elected president, and at a time when the majority of Congress belonged to or were allied with the former’s political party; it was USAID itself which trained and certified many of the prosecutors now active in Bolivia’s criminal justice system; that no members of the Supreme Court are linked to Morales’ political party; and that there is no evidence of Morales firing any judges, so, arguably, any bias in Bolivia’s legal system is likely to arise out of a residual effect that most likely would benefit traditional elites like Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain.

Furthermore, legally allowing Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain to remain in the U.S. may exacerbate Bolivia’s internal divisions by encouraging the country’s factions to become further entrenched in their confrontational and often uncompromising positions. Although Bolivia’s western indigenous majority has, heretofore, been somewhat content with La Paz’s calls for national unity through peaceful means, Santa Cruz appears comparatively inflexible. Implicit or explicit support from Washington gives the latter region every reason to dig in their heels while providing the former reason to eschew conciliation and to push a harder line. Returning the erstwhile president and defense minister would send a message to Santa Cruz that negotiations over autonomy are necessary, while informing La Paz that the U.S. is capable of continuing what the State Department describes as “a tradition of cordial and cooperative relations.”

Concluding Remarks
Unfortunately, the U.S.’s treatment of Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain is consistent with Washington’s mishandling of other notorious cases. The State Department finds it very difficult, indeed, to resist giving a political spin on issues that should otherwise rest on their legal merits. The scandalous U.S. failure to extradite even a self-confessed murderous terrorist like Cuban bomber Luis Posada Carriles (see COHA’s July 2008 article, “Selective Idealism/Selective Indignation…,” by Research Associate Elizabeth Reavey) and the protracted stall up to this day in the extradition of Haiti’s former rightist death squad leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant are cases in point. Both individuals have had a history of involvement with the CIA and both cases apparently were given a highly politicized treatment by the State Department. Washington has earned a reputation for supporting or going easy on some unsavory Latin Americans, and it further tarnishes its name when the U.S. appears to be complicit in order to protect its former friends and collaborators. Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain are not unequivocally the same class of criminal as Carriles and Constant, but, as long as the U.S. refuses their extradition, the aforementioned trend, with its concomitant perceptions of U.S. callousness and recalcitrance, will be reinforced.

Unless Sanchez de Lozada, Berzain, and U.S. Department of State can provide Bolivia’s civil society and the international community with convincing evidence of the inadequacy and arbitrariness of that country’s courts, and the comparative standards used by Washington to determine the quality of other countries’ judicial performance, these former high Bolivian officials should be extradited. Bolivia’s current President, Evo Morales, was elected in 2005 with more than 53% of the vote (the highest percentage in the country’s history) and has just attracted over 67% of the vote in the August 10 recall referendum. The legitimacy of these democratic processes has not been seriously undermined and there is no reason to deny that Morales represents an authentic majority of Bolivians. While it has not been satisfactorily argued that Morales is furtively orchestrating the demands for Sanchez de Lozada and Berzain’s extradition or that a fair trial is impossible and that their physical safety would be seriously endangered, it is plain that Bolivia’s executive and judicial branches—and, deductively, the majority of Bolivians—are eager to acquire their testimony.

8 thoughts on “A Case for Extradition: Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and Carlos Sanchez Berzain

  • January 25, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Whether you support Evo Morales and his policies and whether he has majority support of the voters in Bolivia, is irrelevant to the justice of the legal procedings initiated against Sanchez de Lozada. In defending him, you leave out essential facts:

    1)The death of the child in question occured when a convoy returning with 700 tourists released after ten days of being held in a village was attacked. The first victim of the attack was a soldier.

    2) The deaths in the violence in El Alto occurred while an army security force was escorting two convoys of gasoline and diesel through densely populated neighborhoods on the fifth day of La Paz being under siege and cut off from all supplies. An attempt one day earlier to bring the cisterns down with a police escort had to b abandoned virtually at the outset when it was attacked by “protestors”, including miners swinging dynamite sticks. The number of deaths would have been less if the rioters had allowed ambulances with medical personnel and supplies through their barricades. Four of the dead were the result of the explosion of a gasoline station while “protestors” were trying to plunder the gas. You can find the Presidential Decree 27209 on the internet and you will see that the order was given for the Ministry of Defense to undertake the safe transport of diesel and gasoline and with no other purpose.

    3) The principal sources in the Amnesty International Report have high positions today in the Morales government.

    4) The report made in 2004 by three district attorneys was shelved and never given to Amnesty International on the excuse that it was “technically impossible to finish” but actually because it did not come to the desired conclusions…mostly the ones set out in this article.

    Mr. Abeyta should do some independent research on Evo Morales. He would find the accumulation of falsehoods traceable to him quite appalling. Not least among these is the fact that the National Institute of Statistics was invaded and the data of the 2001 census falsified. That census had no ethnic identity question, much less an ethnic self-identity question. The 2001 census questionaire can be found on the internet. I found it, so I am sure Mr. Abeyta can. But first, he should learn about Bolivia and its history, before 1952 and between 1952 and 2003. It is all available on the internet provided you avoid sources based on data and information posted after Evo Morales came to power.

    Your support of Sanchez de Lozada’s extradition on the basis of the history of US policy in Latin America is as unjustifiable as most of the events in the history of the US policy you criticize…totally ideological.

  • February 6, 2009 at 5:00 am

    The article’s credibility is seriously called into question because it is filled with numerous errors and inaccuracies, which is its case for extradition of President Sanchez de Lozada of Bolivia. The facts argue otherwise. In particular, the extradition request does not comply with U.S.-Bolivian law and thus the extradition request has no merit. Moreover, the actions taken by Sánchez de Lozada and his defense minister were legal, responsible, and necessary in order to rescue trapped hostages and free a capital city under siege by armed protesters. Outlined below is the truth behind some of the article’s more glaring myths.


    “Those closely following the matter, which involved Sánchez de Lozada and Berzaín’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.”


    The author takes dramatic license. There was no “gunning down” of scores of anti-government protestors. Rather, Sánchez de Lozada, acting within his executive mandate to restore law and order in the face of violent protest, sought to end the violent road blockades which had shut down La Paz for several days. The armed protestors prevented much needed basic goods such as food and fuel from entering the capital, putting the lives of the city’s one million residents at risk.

    Moreover, there is no case for extraditing Sánchez de Lozada and Berzaín to face charges in Bolivia because the request does not comply with the U.S.-Bolivia Extradition Treaty. The treaty exempts requests based on political offenses, which U.S. courts have explained include actions in “the course of and incidental to a violent political disturbance, such as war, revolution and rebellion.” The treaty also requires that the conduct involved in the charged crime is a crime in both countries; Sánchez de Lozada’s actions in declaring a national emergency by Supreme Decree and seeking to end the violent siege of La Paz are not crimes under U.S. law. In addition, there is no evidence of probable cause that Sánchez de Lozada or Berzaín “gunned down” protestors. Sánchez de Lozada’s actions as president, protected by the Bolivian Constitution, were designed only to rescue stranded tourists and lift the siege on the capital city.


    “Responding to widespread public protests, Sánchez de Lozada and Berzaín again unleashed the military, this time resulting in 67 deaths and more than 500 injuries.”


    Sánchez de Lozada did not “unleash” the military; rather, as the democratically-elected leader of his country, he did what any president would do to restore law and order in the midst of violent protests. The unrest that led to SDL’s resignation began in February 2003 with an assassination attempt on the life of the President. The U.S. State Department’s 2003 Country Report confirms that the first casualties of the 2003 events were Bolivian soldiers. The report states: “During the violence, sniper bullets entered the President’s office, and two military officers on that floor were killed.”

    In September 2003, Evo Morales and Aymara leader and congressional deputy Felipe “Mallku” Quispe led a blockade of the roads near Lake Titicana, taking hostage 800 people – including 100 foreign tourists – in Sorata. Attempts by Sánchez de Lozada’s government to negotiate with Quispe were unsuccessful, leading to a government rescue operation. Buses were sent in to evacuate the hostages. On their way out, they were ambushed by armed protestors. A soldier was killed first and, in the ensuing evacuation of Sorata, others died from both sides.

    In October 2003, Morales and Quispe led orchestrated protests that blocked all roads leading to La Paz, denying the city’s residents of food, fuel and other supplies for many days. Three newborn babies died in the hospital because of lack of fuel to power the oxygen tanks. Again acting within their constitutional mandate, Sánchez de Lozada and his cabinet issued a Supreme Decree to allow military personnel to escort fuel trucks to La Paz. The decree, unquestionably rooted in Bolivian law, established a state of emergency in the capital city. When security personnel escorted the fuel trucks, the armed protestors used violence to drive them back.


    “[Sánchez de Lozada and Berzaín] are accused of ordering the use of flagrantly disproportionate and deadly force against the primarily indigenous protestors, who were wielding mostly sticks and stones.”


    The protestors were not wielding “mostly sticks and stones.” Rather, contemporaneous photos and reports from the local media as well as U.S. State Department cables confirm that the protestors were armed with Molotov cocktails and rifles.

    Moreover, President Sánchez de Lozada did not use “flagrantly disproportionate” force against the protestors. Independent investigations by the Organization for American States, the U.S. State Department, and independent prosecutors from the Public Ministry of Bolivia concluded that the response of the Bolivian armed forces was not only legal but responsible. In addition, a U.S. State Department report confirms that the demonstrators attacked the convoys, not the other way around.

    The former President’s actions involved the signing of an executive decree and a legal order attempting to free hostages and to supply fuel to the capital city. His actions to restore law and order, save the lives of innocent hostages and protect the citizens of La Paz were necessary, proper, and legal under the Bolivian Constitution. To have done nothing would have endangered far more lives, demonstrated immense lack of judgment and leadership on his part, and would have been the subject of condemnation by others.


    “The veracity of Sánchez de Lozada’s and Berzaín’s accounts regarding the formal procedures they implemented during Black October has also been open to question.”


    Separate investigations by the Organization for American States, the U.S. State Department, and Bolivian prosecutors have all independently concluded that President Sánchez de Lozada’s actions were legal and appropriate, and that the Bolivian government acted within its mandate to bring safety and order to its citizens in a time of violent protests.


    Arguments that the charges against Sánchez de Lozada and Berzaín are simply a political hit job concocted by Morales and that a fair trial is impossible under these conditions do not stand up to scrutiny.


    Evo Morales’ efforts to extradite President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada are part of a politically-driven government offensive to punish those who do not share his extreme agenda, even at the cost of abusing Bolivia’s justice system.

    Morales’ emissaries have said as much. On November 20, 2007, the Bolivian Ambassador to the U.S., speaking of the Morales administration’s view of the case against Sánchez de Lozada, told the Miami Herald, “This is more than a trial over the killings. It is a trial of the ruling class.”

    After the sitting justices of the Bolivian Supreme Court declined to endorse a criminal indictment against Sánchez de Lozada, Morales summarily appointed by decree four new justices without the required Senate approval. These puppet justices, politically aligned with Morales, swiftly endorsed the baseless criminal charges without providing due process to Sánchez de Lozada. The country’s Constitutional Court later deemed the four justices to have been unconstitutionally appointed. Morales responded by filing charges against the Constitutional Court members in an effort to silence them.

    Before he ascended to the presidency, Morales was one of the two principal leaders of the February, September and October 2003 violent demonstrations that included an assassination attempt on the life of President Sánchez de Lozada, shut down the Bolivian capital at least twice, disrupted normal economic activity, endangered the lives of at least 800 people, and ultimately resulted in the overthrow of Bolivia’s democratically-elected Presidents Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and Carlos Mesa. Morales and his accomplices openly and publicly took credit for orchestrating the 2003 violence. Aymara leader Felipe “Mallku” Quispe is quoted in media reports saying: “We organized big mobilizations, and we had to bring down Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada in 2003, and then Carlos Mesa in 2005.” The day after Sánchez de Lozada resigned from the presidency, Morales called it “a day of dignity and identify for the Bolivian people” and said that they had succeeded in “knock[ing] down the symbol of neo-liberalism represented by Sánchez de Lozada.”

    Even before the violence erupted in 2003, Evo Morales rejected all attempts at a national dialogue. Those attempting to bring both sides to the table included Bolivia’s Episcopal Conference under the leadership of Cardinal Julio Terrazas. Gathering information from all political parties and social sectors, the group developed a detailed document laying out an agenda of national priorities and inviting all parties to resolve differences through dialogue and negotiation. Preferring to lead a violent overthrow of the government and to ultimately assume power for himself, Morales refused to sign the document. The document, which was subsequently made public, was signed by the Sánchez de Lozada government.

    Therefore, for Morales the case is purely political, because the deaths at issue here resulted from extreme violence instituted as part of Morales’ efforts to topple the democratically-elected government of Sánchez de Lozada. Failing to continue his efforts to pursue Sánchez de Lozada is tantamount to Morales admitting his own wrongdoing in connecting with both the coup and the violence that caused the deaths of both civilians and military and police personnel.


    “The legitimacy of [Bolivia’s] democratic processes has not been seriously undermined and there is no reason to deny that Morales represents an authentic majority of Bolivians.”


    Bolivian democracy has suffered under Morales. Since taking office in 2006, Morales has systematically consolidated power in the Executive, undermined the country’s judicial independence, and aligned Bolivia with some of the world’s most rogue regimes.

    Morales has developed close diplomatic and economic relations with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, signing a nuclear cooperation agreement and receiving $1 Billion in investments. Morales has also tied Bolivia closely to Hugo Chávez’s “Bolivarian” socialist movement, joining in Chávez’s anti-imperialist rhetoric and receiving millions of dollars in subsidies from Caracas as well as using Venezuelan troops and helicopters.

    He has ordered legal action against all five living former Bolivian presidents, actions which the U.S. State Department have said “appear to be politically motivated.” He has thrown out international aid groups such as USAID and has accused U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg of “conspiring” against him. He has manipulated the Bolivian Attorney General’s Office, pressured the highest courts of the land and politicized the justice system. Morales openly admits to manipulating the justice system; on July 29, 2008, he told a reporter with El Mundo, “When a jurist tells me: ‘Evo, you are making a mistake judicially, what you are doing is illegal,’ well, I will do it even if it is illegal. They I tell the lawyers: ‘If it is illegal, legalize it – what have you studied for?’”

    • August 31, 2011 at 8:16 pm

      Hello, not sure if you are still following the case against Lozada and the top military officials and two government officials during the time of the riots. There was a sentencing yesterday, the top military officials received 15 years and 6 months of jail time. I would like to know you opinion as to what if anything can be done for these people who only followed orders and now are in jail. The Bolivian justice system is tainted, and corrupted. Is there anything that could be done for them?

      Thank you,


  • February 6, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Having just returned from a fact-finding mission to Bolivia, and having spoken with not only Chris Lambert, Second in Charge of the Mission, and Michael Hammer, Economic, Social and Political Advisor, at the American Embassy, but various officials and military officers from Bolivia, I think we need to look at the big picture here. Lozada was put into office by the U.S. – James Carville and associates having plotted his victory by smearing Morales as a narco-trafficker – and then served as a puppet for U.S interests, selling off Bolivian resources like there was a fire sale, with no benefits to the Bolivian people. He was our agent, acting on our behalf under the cover of a “democratic” election.
    There was a peaceful protest when Lozada decided to sell off the gas and he called in the army, most of whom have been trained at the School of the Americans, (Commander of the UMOPAR anti-drug base in Chapare, Colonel Jose Cuevas, estimated that 85% of his soldiers were trained at the School of the Americans, his alma mater, and the rest were trained by local teachers who had been trained there) knowing, as one of our contacts put it, “when you call in the army, you know there are going to be deaths.”
    We are not going to extradite him. Obviously, we are protecting our own, counting on the fact that most Americans are totally ignorant of the degree to which we have been treating Latin American countries as our property, with no concern for the people living there. It’s just o ur tough luck that the Bolivian people would no longer put up with American influence, but we have no shame. After all, even Obama’s special assistant Gregory Craif was happy to defend his role as Lozada’s lawyer until critics made a big deal of it.
    No matter what the details, our behavior toward Bolivia has been shameful. We have used drug interdiction as a cover to exert control of Bolivian forces, looked the other way by tormenting the coca growers and letting the actual drug traffickers allied with the elite produce drugs to their hearts content, and punished the country, not for failing to fight drugs, but for failing to be our lapdog.
    Lozada is just the symbol of our arrogance and disregard for the welfare of Latin America. Americans may be blissfully ignorant, but the rest of the South American sees what is going on and is determined to put a stop to it.

  • April 1, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    I only recently discovered these comments. My apologies for a rather belated rejoinder.

    On Context and the Continued Possibility of Extradition

    Both critical individuals write above as if my case against Sanchez de Lozada is based solely, or in large part, on the U.S.-Bolivia extradition treaty. These are instances of extremely selective interpretation. Indeed, in my article I mention the treaty in only one place.

    Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada can still be extradited, whether or not the seemingly permissive US-Bolivia extradition treaty dictates his return to Bolivia. From a February 6, 2007 TIME article: “The U.S. Ambassador in Bolivia, Philip Goldberg, stated…that the extradition of Sanchez de Lozada is “theoretically possible.” (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1586707,00.html)

    Extradition is possible, and I argue that there is a strong case for its execution. This involves a palpable normative aspect which, in some respects, challenges certain hegemonic orthodoxies of thought. To be clear, however, this is the crux of recent developments in Bolivia.

    Both critical comments appeal to a sense of justice—though surely not Rawlsian distributive justice—and proper perspective, yet neither individual hazards to even obliquely address the foundational issue of my case: Sanchez de Lozada’s political recklessness, which precipitated his downfall and consequent exile.

    My more careful critic, “Maubagut”, writes: “[Sanchez de Lozada’s] actions to restore law and order, save the lives of innocent hostages and protect the citizens of La Paz were necessary, proper, and legal…To have done nothing would have endangered far more lives, and would have been the subject of condemnation by others.”

    First, his rhetoric here regarding “sav[ing] the lives of innocent hostages” is deceptive, for reasons I address below. Most importantly, however, the commenter fails to register that the “subject of condemnation by others,” like myself, is how the Sanchez de Lozada administration compromised Bolivia’s “law and order” in the first place, thereby “endanger[ing]” the well-being of La Paz, the stranded tourists, and Bolivia’s fragile political institutions.

    Yet it takes two to tango, so what of the responsibility of the masses of protestors? By attempting, among other contentious economic policies, to sell-off Bolivia’s natural wealth at unconscionable prices , the Sanchez de Lozada administration egregiously breached the fiduciary trust of the people—especially those citizens living in poverty who depend on public services. (See, for instance, http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-06-24-bolivia-enron_x.htm)

    In other words, the Sanchez de Lozada administration broke the social contract. This was especially reckless in view of Bolivia’s recent history of post-2000 social unrest (see Chris Sweeny’s COHA article “From Rightist Chaos to Leftist Constitutionalism…”).

    Indeed, we can interpret Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada’s former administration as exemplary of a wider syndrome afflicting the Andean region wherein the state has, during the past two decades, been, “first and foremost, the executor of policies (such as a security regime focused on anti-drugs measures, neoliberal reforms, establishing a political regime of [poorly installed] representative democracies) that often were imposed from abroad, leading to deteriorated relations with society and ‘a failure to incorporate, represent, and respond to vast segments of the population for which the state is increasingly distant, if not alien’. (p .2)” (see Ton Salman’s excellent review of State and Society in Conflict: Comparative Perspectives on Andean Crises, eds. Paul W. Drake and Eric Hershberg. Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006, in the European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 85, October 2008)

    Maubagut contends that a failure on Sanchez de Lozada’s part to use the military would have been the subject of condemnation by others. I contend that a failure on the part of Bolivia’s citizenry—especially those living in poverty—to rid themselves of Sanchez de Lozada would have been the subject of condemnation by their fellow citizens, as well as by future generations of Bolivians.

    A Note on the Philosophy of Law, Politics, and History—with General and
    Anecdotal Applications

    As an advocate of universal human rights, I rely upon the law. I do not, however, revere or fetishize it in the sense that a legal positivist would. I thus do not subscribe to the Burkean political philosophy that my critics, whether out of principle or convenience, appear to abide by. I provide in my article the details of the U.S. civil actions against these former public servants in order to disseminate important information—not to wallow in legalese.

    I do not invoke Edmund Burke’s political philosophy and the circumstances surrounding his most famous writing promiscuously; the events of the past months have made it clear that Bolivia has undergone a revolution. (Let us here remember that the archconservative Burke supported the U.S. revolution mistakenly—he thought the colonies were fighting for British liberties, not in fact to found a new republic.) And so, on rare occasions, laws otherwise essential for law and order must temporarily be called into question.

    I also find it useful to bear in mind the historians’ maxim that the proper study of history is not only the attempt to reconstruct and interpret events, but also the thoughts and motivations of actors.

    Thus, in extending support to the Sanchez de Lozada administration during the events of 2003, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the U.S. State Department both acted primarily out of political pragmatism. If Sanchez de Lozada was forced to “resign” (flee) due to illegal and unwarranted protests, a principled decision by the OAS would have been to insist upon his restoration with force commensurate with their prior expressions of “full and decisive” support.

    Simple intuition tells us that a council composed of heads of state, such as that at the OAS, will as a rule of thumb denounce and lament all civil unrest and incipient revolution. This is primarily, though not totally of course, out of self-regard and the preservation of present power structures. History teaches us this on a grand scale; European heads of state tried to use the Concert of Europe to collectively stifle widespread civil unrest.

    Regarding the U.S. reports Maubagut references, we should appreciate how “transregional ‘security’ [regimes]…co-shaped the current crises.” More specifically on this point, how “[d]rugs defined as a security threat…was one of the key elements in the configuration of a ‘regional security architecture built on U.S., [and]not necessarily Andean objectives’ (p.79).” (again, see Salman’s review of Drake and Hershberg, eds. in ERLACS 85)

    U.S. motives are further belied when we recall the words of U.S. assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, Otto Reich, after “the U.S. government encouraged a military coup in Venezuela against the elected populist president, Hugo Chavez…Reich called ambassadors from Latin America to his office after the coup and stressed that ‘the ouster of Mr. Chavez was not a rupture of democratic rule because he had resigned’ (p. 209)” (Kathryn Sikkink, Mixed Signals: U.S. Human Rights Policy and Latin America, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2004)

    We should compare the abovementioned quote with Maubagut’s rhetorical arguments concerning Bolivia’s “coup.”

    I do not wish to attempt to eviscerate the OAS’s legitimacy, nor the role that this institution has in developing more participatory forms of democracy throughout Latin America. And I am not of that camp that holds that the U.S. can do no good.

    But let us not be naïve and reify power structures/relationships as given by Nature, while ignoring fundamental dynamics of power. These principles are foundational to any moral, multi-level inquiry in political economy and law. Let us always ask this basic question: Who benefits? On this matter, Linda Weltner’s comments are insightful.

    We can view both the reports/interpretations of the OAS and the U.S. State Dept. in this light, and with due skepticism.

    While there have always been strong intellectual and pragmatic reasons for invoking the principle of prudence, while hewing to the ancien regime, I must agree with Morales when, upon Sanchez de Lozada’s exit, he stated that it was “a day of dignity…for the Bolivian people.” My critic Maubagut would likely call this an error or an inaccuracy, a point to which I now turn.

    More On “Maubagut”

    Maubagut claims that my article’s “credibility is seriously called into question because it is filled with numerous errors and inaccuracies.” He then accuses me of indulging in “dramatic license.” In attempts to highlight my supposed “numerous errors and inaccuracies,” however, the examples marshaled by this commenter do little more than to highlight the fundamentally contested facts and interpretations surrounding the events in question. The “official” U.S. State Dept. and OAS documents which this commentator depends so heavily on are of limited determinacy in this instance, for the reasons explicated above.

    Moreover, Maubagut’s rhetoric and myopic mode of interpretation open him/her to the very accusations previously mentioned.

    The following examples quote Maubagut, while I respond in a following paragrapgh. I’ll abstain from the trite and intellectually insulting “MYTH” vs. “FACT” format.

    Ex: 1) “ …the actions taken by Sánchez de Lozada and his defense minister were legal, responsible, and necessary in order to rescue trapped hostages…The author takes dramatic license.”

    Trapped hostages? Notwithstanding the redundancy of this phrasing, Maubagut’s use of the word “hostage” imputes an intent on the part of the protestors to use the “stranded tourists” (an accurate phraseology the commenter employs a few lines latter) as bargaining chips. Clearly, the stranded tourists were coincidental to the events in question. Dramatic license indeed.

    Ex: 2) “There was no “gunning down” of scores of anti-government protestors. Rather, Sánchez de Lozada, acting within his executive mandate to restore law and order in the face of violent protest, sought to end the violent road blockades which had shut down La Paz for several days.”

    This is an old story, shorn of any context—a context that I address theoretically at the outset of this response, and which can be found in any tolerably objective history of Bolivia. Obviously, I tend to agree with the COHA staff when they write that Bolivia has been characterized by “centuries of structural oppression and humiliation faced by [the country’s] indigenous and working class majority.” (“A Brief Recent History of Bolivia and the Rise of President Morales” January 2009) Furthermore, I will reiterate that it was the professional (political) recklessness which precipitated the events of 2003.

    Ex: 3) “The protestors were not wielding “mostly sticks and stones.” Rather, contemporaneous photos and reports from the local media as well as U.S. State Department cables confirm that the protestors were armed with Molotov cocktails and rifles.”

    Maubagut’s wording here again is disingenuous. A quick look leads the reader to believe that a sizable minority, or even a majority of the protestors were armed with homemade bombs and rifles. When tens of thousands of protestors mobilize in a country where they have good reason to believe that they will encounter violent suppression, it is improbable that everybody will go unarmed. This in no way means that my assertion that protestors wielded “mostly sticks and stones” is a “myth.” It is an intuitive and most probable conclusion: The majority of the protesters carried sticks and stones, if they, as individuals, carried anything at all.

    Ex: 4) “Bolivian democracy has suffered under Morales. Since taking office in 2006, Morales has systematically consolidated power in the Executive, undermined the country’s judicial independence… “

    As this is Maubagut’s response to my “myth” that “The legitimacy of [Bolivia’s] democratic processes has not been seriously undermined and there is no reason to deny that Morales represents an authentic majority of Bolivians,” the commenter rather missed my point. I was demonstrating that since Morales came to office, the elections and referendums in Bolivia have been deemed by observers to have been legitimate reflections of the will of the people—overwhelmingly and historically so.

    Thus, Maubagut’s attack on the credibility of my article rings rather hollow. It also exposes this individual’s unmitigated bias. And I am relatively unconcerned that our political, legal, and perhaps moral philosophies are incommensurable.

    The abovementioned commenter does, however, argue with some force that Morales allegedly fomented the political and social impasse in question out of pure self-interest, when peaceful alternative solutions—which would have been deemed acceptable by his constituents—were available.

    Accordingly, if Maubagut so considers Morales to be a political thug endangering Bolivia, and if the commenter likewise is supremely confident in Sanchez de Lozada’s lack of culpability, then a tribunal with international observers (as I recommended) would, on this account, have to vindicate Sanchez de Lozada, or otherwise be declared illegitimate, null, and void.

    Maybe Maubagut’s abiding concern for justice and Bolivia’s political institutions will motivate him/her to agitate for such a venue. As is so often said, Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

  • July 20, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    No government has the right, under the name of "democracy" nor "political party" to end anybodys life. We need to educate the Bolivian population abour the citizens rights and obligations to their country. If our "indigenous people" are kept ignorant there will always be abuse and neglect. It is time to stop that !!!

  • June 13, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    carlos sanchez berzain was in las vegas at the excalibur on 6-6-11.and he was more than likely going to do a deal with a timesahre at the grandview.we have pictures of him.contact me for more info.leave a message here for me and how I can reach you

  • July 14, 2012 at 2:47 am

    An intriguing discussion is worth comment. There’s no doubt that that you should publish more about this subject, it may not be a taboo matter but generally people don’t talk about these subjects. To the next! All the best!!


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