Bolivia: Campaign to bring murderers to justice continues

Issue 

The Bolivian people, led by the government of President Evo Morales, are continuing their campaign to bring former president Gonzalo "Goni" Sanchez de Lozada and members of his cabinet to justice over the government-ordered massacre of dozens of protesters in 2003.

The massacre didn't save the Goni government. The uprising, sparked by plans to privatise the gas industry, overthrew the government. Goni fled to the US where he has stayed ever since.

Three former ministers have received asylum in the United States, and a further three in Peru.

The US is refusing to comply with demands from Bolivia for Goni's extradition.

The case against Goni and members of his government, opened three years ago, has finally begun, the May 18 Latin American Herald Tribune said. Only eight of the accused attended the opening session that day.

Rogelio Mayta, a lawyer for the massacre victims told La Prensa on May 18 that the hearing would go on despite the absence of the other defendants.

Outside the Supreme Court in Sucre, 200 relatives of those killed rallied for justice, the BBC reported that day.

The former government members are accused of aiding the killing of 65 people and wounding more than 500.

Democracyctr.org said that, on the day the trial began, activists in the US distributed flyers in the neighbourhood of Goni's Marylands home to protest against the decision to grant him asylum.

Peru's decision to grant asylum to individuals sought by Bolivia is straining relations. It also mimics the decision by Peru's pro-US government of President Alan Garcia to grant asylum to Venezuelan opposition figures wanted over corruption charges.

Morales said relations with Peru were at "high risk" over Peru's decision, the Associated Press reported on May 13. He described Peru's decision as a "provocation and an open aggression".

Tensions between Bolivia and the US have also been raised by US interference. An investigative report by Eva Golinger and Jeremy Bigwood, posted on Chavezcode.com on May 13, revealed the extent of involvement in Bolivian by the US government-funded USAID.

Opposition parties, organisations and projects, aiming to undermine the Morales government and its pro-people policies, have been financed by USAID. Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that US$97 million has been invested since 2002.

A May 15 Granma International article said Bolivia's district attorney's office had identified a US-based NGO Human Rights Foundation, with known links to the CIA, as providing the bulk of the funds to a terrorist gang for a foiled assassination plot against Morales.

Press TV said on May 25 that the government had confiscated land belonging to Goni and redistributed it to campesinos (peasants) who actually worked the land.

Morales presented 283 title deeds, amounting to more than 500 hectares, to local workers.