It was four years ago tonight – October 17, 2003 – that Bolivians sat before their televisions bearing witness to a dramatic split screen image that marked a sea change in the nation’s history.
On one side of the screen President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, a key architect of the nation’s discredited march to privatization, was aboard an airliner at the Santa Cruz airport headed for Miami. On the other side of the screen a somber Vice President, Carlos Mesa, stood before the Congress ready to assume Sánchez de Lozada’s place. He began by asking for a national minute of silence in memory of those killed by the political repression that had led to the widespread demands for Sanchez de Lozada’s ouster.
Below is the introduction and link to an article that The Democracy Center was invited to publish today on the global Blog, “Why Democracy?” In this article Democracy Center team members Elliot Williams and Lily Whitesell look at the demand for justice raised against a host of Latin American ex-presidents, from Chile to Bolivia to Peru and beyond.
For those interested, here is a link to the reporting on Sánchez de Lozada’s departure that we published four years ago. Here is a link to an interesting article just published by Time magazine about the new pair of civil and criminal cases chasing after Mr. Sánchez de Lozada four years into his self-imposed Maryland exile.
Latin Americans Challenge Impunity
In Latin America in the first decade of the new century, a region of the world that was once synonymous with dictatorship and repression has emerged as place of rich new democracies. Democracy is on the rise, especially here in South America. Countries that passed from authoritarian regimes, elected governments obedient to the forced economics of the Washington Consensus are paving their own way. Social movements have become a driving force – from the streets to the halls of power.
But there is one aspect of democracy in Latin America that remains a point of struggle. Former heads of state that robbed their countries through corruption and killed their peoples in their efforts to hold onto power, have been allowed to live happy lives in exile. From Pinochet to Fujimori, Latin Americans are demanding an end to impunity.
Today Bolivia, where The Democracy Center is based, marks the fourth anniversary of the ouster of its former President, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. “Goni” as he is nicknamed here, was forced to flee to the U.S. on October 17, 2003 following his brutal repression of protests challenging his market-driven economic policies. More than sixty people were killed. Today Mr. Sánchez de Lozada is under an arrest and extradition order for murder from the Bolivian Supreme Court, yet he remains in happy exile in suburban Maryland, protected by the Bush administration.
Read the full article here.