Below is an announcement from one of our guest Bloggers, Gretchen Gordon (also one of our gas and oil researchers), about the upcoming International Day of Action in Solidarity with Bolivia. We hope that many of our readers will join in.
A Day of International Solidarity with Bolivia (October 17)
On October 17, people across the world who have never thought they had anything to do with Bolivians will hopefully be changing their minds.
This International Day of Action in Solidarity with Bolivia is an effort sponsored by the newly initiated Bolivia Solidarity Network. The goal of the event is two-fold. First, it aims to increase awareness about Bolivia and to call attention to current issues facing Bolivians. Second, it seeks to build an international base of solidarity with the Bolivian people; both to lend support to social movements as well as to learn from the rich knowledge and experiences they have to offer the rest of the world.
A Focus on the Case of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada
A central focus of the Day of Action is to call attention to the campaign by Bolivians to bring former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada – who currently resides in the U.S. – to trial for human rights abuses. October marks the three-year anniversary of the killings of Bolivian civilians by Sánchez de Lozada’s government in what later became known as the Gas War of 2003.
In 2003, when Sánchez de Lozada’s government readied plans to export Bolivian gas (at bargain prices) to the U.S. via Chile, citizens staged massive protests and blockades. Sánchez de Lozada declared a national emergency and deployed the military into the streets of some of Bolivia’s poorest indigenous neighborhoods. On October 17th, after even his own Vice-President denounced the killings, Sánchez de Lozada resigned as president and boarded a plane to the U.S., leaving behind him 67 Bolivians dead, and hundreds wounded.
“Sixty-seven lives destroyed, sixty-seven families that have to reconstruct their lives; mothers without children, fathers without children, children without fathers, grandparents without grandchildren,” explains Monica Mendizabal, a member of the Bolivian Comite Impulsor, one of the main organizations pushing to bring Sánchez de Lozada to trial.
Efforts by subsequent Bolivian governments to bring Sánchez de Lozada back to Bolivia to testify in a Trial of Responsibility have been obstructed by the U.S. government, which has for more than a year failed to serve Sánchez de Lozada with the official Bolivian government request for his return.
The case against the former President has such huge significance for Bolivians (President Morales raised it in his recent speech before the UN General Assembly) because of the desire throughout Latin America to end a vicious political culture of impunity. While the man who sat at the head of the 2003 killings lives comfortably in the wealthy suburbs of Maryland, Bolivians at home are left trying to repair the economic and human damages his policies inflicted.
For the families of the victims, if Sanchez de Lozada is not held accountable, the message that is sent to all future political leaders, Evo Morales included, is that it doesn’t matter what you do running the country, you can always find a comfortable retirement elsewhere.
A Mix of Action and Educational Activities
In addition to highlighting the case against Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, other events during the Day of Action will focus attention on issues of fair trade, economic justice, indigenous rights, and culture, and help to build relationships between Bolivian and non-Bolivian communities where each of us live.
Events are currently planned for 15 cities in eight different countries, from an educational forum in Toronto and video screenings in Sydney to a petition campaign in Galway and a march to the San Francisco City Hall. Visit the Bolivia Solidarity Network website to see if there’s an event planned in your town. If there isn’t already something planned in your community and you’d like to start something, contact the Bolivia Solidarity Network for ideas and help.
The International Day of Action in Solidarity with Bolivia on October 17th is an opportunity to raise awareness in your community, to build bridges between Bolivians and non-Bolivians, and to work together to make a better future. To join in this international effort, or to learn more about some of the events planned, visit the Bolivia Solidarity Network website. To learn more about the campaign for a Trial of Responsibility for Sánchez de Lozada, visit here.
by Gretchen Gordon