Solidarity urged for extradition campaign

Federico Fuentes

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, said that previous Bolivian governments had “massacred people that struggled for their economic demands, for their natural resources” and that “perpetrators of genocide, corrupt criminals, escape in order to live in the United States”.

Morales was specifically referring to former Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and two of his ministers — Carlos Sanchez Berzain and Jorge Berindoague — who fled Bolivia after being overthrown in the October 2003 uprising during which 67 people were killed by the police and military.

The uprising resulted from the attempt of the neoliberal government to sell Bolivia’s gas cheaply to the US. Seeing this as a continuation of the plunder of Bolivia’s natural resources, workers, peasants and indigenous people rose up and continued demonstrating for over two weeks until “Goni” was forced to flee the country via helicopter on October 17.

Morales said: “I ask with a great deal of respect, expel these perpetrators of genocide, criminals, corrupt ones that come to live here [in the US] ... I believe that no country, no head of state can protect, hide delinquents, the perpetrators of genocide.”

A Bolivian delegation arrived in Washington on September 27 to push the government’s case. In a press advisory, the delegation explained that it would be “comprised of Juan Patricio Mamani Quispe [the president of the Association of the Family Members of Those Killed in the Gas War] and Rogelio Mayta [the attorney representing the family members of those killed]”. The delegation would “meet with government officials at the U.S. State and Justice Departments, as well as key congressional leaders, to urge that U.S. officials fulfill this appeal from the Bolivian government which was officially received by the U.S. State Department on June 22, 2005”.

“To date, the U.S. government has failed to notify the three men [of the request for their extradition], and has failed to respond to this official request. The matter is a critical one for the Bolivian people, as the trial cannot proceed without formal notification of Sanchez de Lozada, Sanchez Berzain and Berindoague, all of whom currently reside in the U.S. since fleeing Bolivia in October 2003.”

As part of this campaign an important mobilisation is being held in Bolivia on October 17. According to the Altena Press Agency, a meeting in the offices of Human Rights in El Alto strengthened the campaign: The Association of the Family Members of those Killed in the Gas War was joined by representatives from the Bolivian Workers Central (COB), the Regional Workers Central of Bolivia (COR), the Federation of Neighbourhood Committees of El Alto (FEJUVE) and the United Confederation of Bolivian Campesino Workers (CSUTCB) in a new committee. They will march onto La Paz on October 17 demanding the jailing of “Goni”.

Internationally, a number of Bolivian solidarity groups will also be organising events on the day. The Bolivian Solidarity Network, set up by foreigners residing in Bolivia, is helping to coordinate the day.

Speaking on the US Democracy Now radio show, Morales pleaded: “I want to take advantage of this opportunity to call on the people of the United States to help us in our efforts to extradite [these] people who practiced genocide, who were corrupt ... and who today are free here in the United States.

“A government that says it fights against terrorism, for human rights, against corruption, it’s not conceivable that [these people] would still be here. So we ask the people, the government and all the institutions of human rights to help with this.”

From Green Left Weekly, October 11, 2006.

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