Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada

Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada
74th and 77th President of Bolivia
In office
6 August 2002  17 October 2003
Vice President Carlos Mesa
Preceded by Jorge Quiroga
Succeeded by Carlos Mesa
In office
6 August 1993  6 August 1997
Vice President Víctor Hugo Cárdenas
Preceded by Jaime Paz
Succeeded by Hugo Banzer
Personal details
Born Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada Sánchez de Bustamante
(1930-07-01) 1 July 1930
La Paz, Bolivia
Nationality Bolivian
Political party MNR
Spouse(s) Ximena Iturralde
Alma mater University of Chicago (A.B.)
Religion Christianity
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Sánchez de Lozada and the second or maternal family name is Sánchez de Bustamante.

Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada Sánchez de Bustamante (born 1 July 1930), familiarly known as "Goni", is a Bolivian politician and businessman, who served as President of Bolivia for two non-consecutive terms. He is a lifelong member of the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR). As Minister of Planning in the government of President Víctor Paz Estenssoro, Sánchez de Lozada used "shock therapy" in 1985 to cut hyperinflation from an estimated 25,000% to a single digit within a period of less than 6 weeks.

Sánchez de Lozada was twice elected President of Bolivia, both times on the MNR ticket. During his first term (1993–97), he initiated a series of landmark social, economic and constitutional reforms. Elected to a second term in 2002, he struggled with protests and events in October 2003 related to the Bolivian gas conflict. Official reports said that 59 protesters, soldiers and policemen died; most deaths were of protesters or bystanders. He resigned and went into exile in the United States in October 2003. In March 2006, he resigned the leadership of the MNR.[1]

The government of Evo Morales has unsuccessfully been seeking his extradition from the US to stand a political trial for the events of 2003.[1] Victims' representatives have pursued compensatory damages for extrajudicial killings in a suit against him in the United States under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). In 2014 the US District Court in Florida ruled the case could proceed under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA); both sides filed appeals on this ruling in 2015.

Political life

The son of a political exile, Sánchez de Lozada spent his early years in the United States, where he attended boarding school at Scattergood Friends School in rural Iowa.[2] He studied literature and philosophy at the University of Chicago. As a result of this experience, his Spanish is accented, leading many Bolivians to refer to him as "El Gringo."

At the age of 21, he returned to Bolivia in 1951, on the eve of the 1952 revolution led by the MNR political party. This transformed Bolivia from a semi-feudal oligarchy to a multi-party democracy by introducing universal suffrage, nationalizing the mines of the three Tin Barons, and carrying out sweeping agrarian reform. Sánchez de Lozada pursued film-making and participated in several cinematic projects in the 1950s, including filming Bolivia's 1952 Revolution. In 1954 he founded Telecine. His film Voces de la Tierra (Voices from the Earth) won First Prize for documentaries at the 1957 Edinburgh film festival.

In 1957, Sánchez de Lozada turned to resource businesses, founding Andean Geoservices. In 1966, he founded the mining company COMSUR, later becoming one of the most successful mining entrepreneurs in the country.

Bolivia was ruled for nearly two decades by military dictatorships. In 1979 and again in 1980, on the return to democracy, Sánchez de Lozada was elected to congress as deputy for Cochabamba. In 1985, he was elected senator from Cochabamba and then as President of the Senate. Soon after, President Víctor Paz Estenssoro appointed him as Planning Minister. Sánchez de Lozada oversaw a series of economic structural reforms that steered the country away from state capitalism, towards a mixed economy. He is particularly known for having sharply reduced the hyperinflation of the period, using economic shock therapy, as championed by United States economist Jeffrey Sachs, then of Harvard University. Sánchez de Lozada describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social progressive.

Sánchez de Lozada ran for president in 1989 as the MNR candidate. While he won the plurality with 25.6% of the popular vote, in the congressional runoff among the top three candidates, Jaime Paz Zamora of the MIR, who had polled 21.8% of the popular vote and formerly been in third place, won the presidency. Paz Zamora was backed in the runoff by the second-placed, former military dictator Hugo Banzer of the ADN, who had won 25.2% of the popular vote.

First presidency: 1993–97

In 1993, Sánchez de Lozada again ran for president, this time in alliance with the Tupac Katari Revolutionary Liberation Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Katari de Liberación, MRTKL), an indigenous party formed in 1985 whose leader Víctor Hugo Cárdenas was the candidate for vice-president. The MNR-MRTKL ticket won the first plurality with 36.5% of the popular vote, and Sánchez de Lozada was confirmed as president by Congress. A coalition government that included the center-left Free Bolivia Movement (MBL) and populist Civic Solidarity Union (UCS) was formed. With the 1993 electoral victory, Cárdenas became the first elected indigenous vice president in South America.

The 1993–97 MNR-led government initiated a series of Constitutional, social, economic and political reforms. The Constitution was rewritten to define Bolivia as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nation; the first articles enshrined indigenous rights. Other legislation included the Popular Participation Act, which decentralized the country by creating 311 (since expanded to 321) municipal governments, empowering them for local governance. The law introduced direct municipal elections for the indigenous population, and authorized local decision making on municipal spending, for which 20 percent of federal spending was guaranteed to the municipalities on a per capita basis. Other programs included Educational Reform, which introduced classroom teaching in the local indigenous languages, Universal Maternity Coverage and milk and medical coverage for children up to the age of five years, and a Universal Old-age Annual Benefit. Political reforms included opening elections to independent candidates for congressional seats; and Capitalization, a program which enabled the formation of joint ventures by private capital and the Bolivian people (not the Bolivian state), and requiring the private capital be invested directly in the new company.

The Capitalization program was controversial: it was perceived as a privatization of five major state-owned companies that ceded management of these industries to foreign interests. Supporters believed that the requirement for private capital to be directly invested in the new joint ventures significantly reduced room for corruption. The program was intended to provide for development of these "strategic" resources,as the Bolivian government could not afford to do so. The revenues of the new companies were expected to yield funds for human and social, as well as infrastructure development. The dividend payouts for the Bolivian people were the foundation of a universal, annual old-age benefit, the BONOSOL. Although small on a per capita basis, it was expected to benefit primarily the rural elderly, the most marginalized sector of Bolivia's indigenous population.

Finally, the reforms also included changes to the country's electoral laws. A new electoral system was introduced. The change opened elections for 70 congressional seats to independent candidates who were elected by plurality, with the remaining 60 seats to be filled proportionally by members of parties reflecting the votes cast for the presidential tickets. If no presidential candidate won an absolute majority, the president would be elected in a run-off of the top two contenders. The presidential term of office was set at five years.

Second presidency: 2002–03

In 2002, Sánchez de Lozada again ran for president. He chose Carlos Mesa as his running mate, an independent historian and journalist who had MNR sympathies. Sánchez de Lozada hired U.S. political consultants James Carville, Stan Greenberg and Bob Shrum to advise his campaign.[3]

After running a sophisticated campaign, de Lozada seemed positioned to win a strong enough plurality to form a strong government. However, three days before the elections, the US ambassador publicly warned the Bolivian people against electing "those who want Bolivia to again be an exporter of cocaine," as it would threaten US aid to Bolivia.[4] The people reacted in resentment, swelling the anti-US vote for Evo Morales in the last three days of the campaign by 9 percent and helping him finish second after de Lozada. Evo Morales of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) received 20.94% of the popular vote. The center-right neo-populist candidate, Manfred Reyes of NFR placed a close third with 20.91% of the popular vote. After a difficult coalition-building process, Sánchez de Lozada was elected in a coalition formed by the MNR-MBL, MIR and UCS, the last two former members of the preceding coalition headed by the rightist, former dictator General Hugo Banzer.

When Sánchez de Lozada took office, he was faced with an economic and social crisis inherited from the preceding administration. Economic growth had plunged from the 4.8% at the end of Sánchez de Lozada's first presidency to 0.6% in 1999 and had recovered to only 2% for 2002. The fiscal deficit was running at 8%.

Gas War and resignation

Main article: Bolivian gas conflict

From his inauguration in August 2002 until the end of the year, there were fewer public tensions. In January 2003 and under the leadership of Evo Morales, a group of union leaders (Evo Morales for the “cocaleros” — coca growers, Jaime Solares and Roberto de la Cruz for urban workers and miners, Felipe Quispe for the indigenous farmers in the Aymara region surrounding La Paz) joined together to found the "People's High Command" (Estado Mayor del pueblo). A new wave of heightened protests began; main roads were blocked, and towns and cities were brought to a standstill. Some groups aired long-standing grievances against the government; others were targeted entirely locally, protesting against decisions of the now self-governing municipalities. In February, a standoff between police demanding higher pay and army units called to protect the presidential palace suddenly ended in violence and deaths in the streets of La Paz, without articulated demands.

The acute economic crisis affected above all the urban workers and the farming/indigenous populations; their struggles gave widespread support for protests. Protests and demands became more focused: the cocaleros continued protesting against eradication of a milenary plant (coca), although Banzer’s "Coca 0" policy had been replaced by the earlier subsidized crop substitution policy, in order to achieve gradual coca reduction but not total eradication. The indigenous farmers of the La Paz Aymara region pressed for political reform, to include recognition and inclusion of Bolivia's indigenous ethnic groups as legitimate political blocs. They wanted economic de-centralization based on recognition of indigenous groups as legitimate political actors.[5] Other demands included autonomy for their territories. By contrast, urban workers, primarily in La Paz, and miners protested against the proceeds of increasing natural gas production going to foreigners.

Demands rose for the government to return to the corporatist state and nationalize Bolivia's hydrocarbon resources. Protesters demanded Sánchez de Lozada's resignation. In late September, a convoy of buses and trucks under a police escort was bringing back to La Paz over 700 persons, including foreign tourists, after a 10-day blockade of a valley resort town.[6] In Warisata, confrontations between protesters blocking the road and the army led to six dead, among them two soldiers and a child aged 8, shot in her own house. Conscript Edwin Aguilar said that he and other soldiers were ordered to "shoot anything that moved."[7]

A few days later, in early October, it was falsely reported that President Sánchez de Lozada had decided to export Bolivia's gas to Mexico and the United States through a Chilean port, notwithstanding strong public opposition. Rancor continues to be high against Chile since Bolivia lost its coastal territory to them in the late 19th century War of the Pacific. Protesters blockaded the main highway from the city of El Alto, Bolivia down to neighboring La Paz. A massive demonstration and virtual siege of La Paz ensued.

After three days, fuel and other essential supplies were dangerously low in La Paz. On 11 October, President Sánchez de Lozada promulgated Supreme Decree 27209, ordering the militarization of the gas plants and the transport of hydrocarbons. This decree was intended to protect the military, noting in the third article: “whatever harm to property or persons that might be produced as an effect of fulfilling the objective of this supreme decree shall be compensated and guaranteed by the State”.[8] As a result, fully armed military troops were sent as a security force to open the way for diesel and gasoline cisterns to be transported through densely populated poor neighborhoods into La Paz.

Protesters tried to block the convoys at several points along their route. Alteño residents reported that government troops started shooting indiscriminately, killing a five-year-old child and a pregnant mother.[9] Sanchez de Lozada and some government ministers attributed the violence to an armed 'coup', but Evo Morales and some civil groups described it as a 'massacre' by government forces.

Vice-President Mesa publicly broke with Sanchez de Lozada, saying.,“Neither as a citizen nor as a man of principles can I accept that, faced with popular pressure, the response should be death.” The Minister for Economic Development also resigned. 20,000 Bolivians began to march on La Paz, demanding the President’s resignation. Evo Morales' supporters from Cochabamba tried to march into Santa Cruz, the largest city of the eastern lowlands where support still remained for the president. They were turned back. While blaming the violence on 'narco-sindicalists', Sanchez de Lozada proposed a National Dialogue. He promised to put export plans to a national referendum, but demands for his resignation continued to rise. According to official figures, a total of 59 civilian deaths resulted from the Gas War, with around 400 persons wounded.

Faced with rising anger at the deaths, and with coalition partner Manfred Reyes Villa withdrawing political support, Sánchez de Lozada offered his resignation on 17 October in a letter to be read at an emergency session of Congress. He left on a commercially scheduled flight for the United States.

Trial of responsibility

In 2004, after a concerted campaign by the families of the victims and human rights groups, who gathered over 700,000 signatures on petitions, 2/3 of Bolivia’s Congress voted to authorize a “Trial of Responsibility” of the exiled president. It was intended to determine whether Sánchez de Lozada and his cabinet ministers should be held legally responsible for the violence of the Gas War. Supporters included many from the president's party, reflecting a broad consensus that the government bore prime responsibility for the deaths.

The Attorney General’s office took testimony from twelve ministers, who also attributed blame to Sanchez de Lozada, and carried out detailed preliminary investigations. Their work included forensic studies, crime scene investigations, and eyewitness testimony. Evo Morales, one of the key protest leaders, voluntarily offered evidence. In August 2011 the Bolivian Supreme Court sentenced five members of the military and two politicians to between three and fifteen years in prison for their role in the events of September and October 2003.

Attempts at extradition

On 11 November 2008, Bolivia formally served the US government with a request to extradite Sánchez de Lozada to Bolivia. The request was rejected by the US State Department in 2012, based on the argument that Sanchez de Lozada's actions are not a crime in the USA, and that no dual criminality condition existed. It said that no US president could be charged for crimes as defined by the Bolivian state.

On 10 November 2009, the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida ruled that the claims for charges of crimes against humanity against de Lozada had no case. The court ruled that charges of extrajudicial killings could be pursued in order to allow two related U.S. cases to progress against former president Gonzalo Daniel Sánchez de Lozada de Bustamante and former Bolivian Defense Minister Jose Carlos Sánchez Berzaín.

The plaintiffs in the cases, Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada, and Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez Berzaín, seek compensatory and punitive damages under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS).[10] On 20 May 2014, Judge James Cohn ordered that Plaintiffs’ claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) could proceed because they sufficiently alleged facts that “plausibly suggest that these killings were deliberate,” and because they adequately alleged that Defendants were responsible for the killings. The case was stayed on 19 August 2014 pending defendants' appeal of the district court's decision. Appellants-defendants filed their brief to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on 14 January 2015. Plaintiffs-appellees filed their brief on 6 March 2015. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued their decision on 17 June 2016.[11]

See also


  1. 1 2 Carlos Quiroga, Reuters (7 September 2012), Bolivia says Washington won't extradite former leader, Chicago Tribune.
  2. Deardorff, Julie (16 June 1994). "Bolivian President More Comfortable Playing Soccer Than Watching". Chicago Tribune.
  3. Stan Greenberg, Dispatches from the War Room: In The Trenches With Five Extraordinary Leaders (2009) ISBN 0-312-35152-6
  4. Garcia Linera, "State Crisis and Popular Power", New Left Review, no.37, Jan/Feb 2006.
  5. Como Cayó Goni (in Spanish).
  6. M. Bracamonte, P. Ramirez, R. Mayta, Hacer justicia. Argumentos de las victimas en el juicio por la masacre de septiembre y octubre de 2003 en Bolivia, (Diakonia 2011).
  7. , Jornada
  8. , Center for Justice website
  9. http://media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/files/201415128.pdf
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada.
Political offices
Preceded by
Jaime Paz Zamora
President of Bolivia
Succeeded by
Hugo Banzer
Preceded by
Jorge Quiroga
President of Bolivia
Succeeded by
Carlos Mesa
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