Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada

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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
Gonzálo Sánchez de Lozada-Agencia BrasilAntonio Cruz.jpg
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 (1930-07-01) July 1, 1930 (age 85)
La Paz, Bolivia
Nationality Bolivian
Political party MNR
Spouse(s) Ximena Iturralde
Alma mater University of Chicago (A.B.)
Religion Christianity

Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada Sánchez de Bustamante (born July 1, 1930), familiarly known as "Goni", is a Bolivian politician, businessman, and former President of Bolivia. A lifelong member of the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR), he is credited for using "shock therapy", the economic theory championed by then Harvard University economist Jeffrey Sachs. This measure was used by Bolivia in 1985 (when Sánchez de Lozada was Minister of Planning in the government of President Víctor Paz Estenssoro) 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 resigned and went into exile in the United States of America in October 2003 after violent protests related to the Bolivian gas conflict in which 58 protesters, soldiers and policemen died. In March 2006, he resigned the leadership of the MNR. Bolivia has unsuccessfully been seeking his extradition from the US to stand a political trial for the events of 2003.[1]

Political life[edit]

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[2] and studied literature and philosophy at the University of Chicago. Having grown up in the United States, his Spanish is accented, leading many Bolivians to refer to him as "El Gringo." He returned to Bolivia in 1951, on the eve of the 1952 revolution led by the MNR political party, which transformed Bolivia from a semi-feudal oligarchy to a multiparty democracy by introducing universal suffrage, nationalizing the mines of the three Tin Barons, and carrying out a sweeping agrarian reform. Sánchez de Lozada pursued film-making and participated in several cinematic projects in the 1950s, including the production of early footage of 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, he founded Andean Geoservices. In 1966, he founded the mining company COMSUR, later becoming one of the most successful mining entrepreneurs in the country.

In 1979 and again in 1980, on the return to democracy after 18 years of military dictatorships, Sánchez de Lozada was elected to congress as deputy for Cochabamba. In 1985, he was elected senator from Cochabamba and became President of the Senate. Soon after, President Víctor Paz Estenssoro named him Planning Minister. 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 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 between the top three candidates, the third-place winner, Jaime Paz Zamora of the MIR, who had polled 21.8% of the popular vote, 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.

The first presidency: 1993–1997[edit]

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, this time 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. The 1993 electoral victory also made Cárdenas 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. Most noteworthy was the redefinition of Bolivia in the Constitution as multethnic and multicultural and the first articles in Bolivia's Constitutional history enshrining indigenous rights. Other legislation included the Popular Participation Act, which decentralized the country by creating 311 (since expanded to 321) municipal governments and empowered them for local governance. The law introduced direct, municipal elections for the indigenous population, and included direct 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 the Educational Reform that introduced classroom teaching in the local indigenous language, Universal Maternity Coverage and milk and medical coverage for children up to the age of five years, a Universal Old-age Annual Benefit, opening elections to independent candidates for congressional seats, 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 because it was perceived as a privatization of five major state-owned companies and ceded management of these industries to foreign interests. Supporters of the law, however, believed that the requirement that the private capital be directly invested in the new joint ventures significantly reduced the room for corruption and would bring about the development of these "strategic" resources in the absence of any possibility of Bolivia alone funding their development, that the fiscal obligations of the new companies would greatly increase the funds available for human and social, as well as infrastructure development, and that the dividend payouts for the Bolivian people went to create a universal, annual old-age benefit, the BONOSOL, which though small would have an immense impact on 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 to independent candidates who were elected by plurality to fill 70 congressional seats, and the remaining 60 seats were filled proportionally by the votes cast for the presidential tickets. Also, the president would no longer be elected from among the top three contenders (if no candidate won an absolute majority), but from among the top two, and his term of office would be five years.

The second presidency: 2002–2003[edit]

In 2002, Sánchez de Lozada again ran for president. As his running mate, Sánchez de Lozada chose Carlos Mesa, 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 based on public relations strategies formed by the US political consulting firm, Greenberg Carville Shrum, de Lozada seemed well on his way to winning 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 put in jeopardy US aid to Bolivia.[4] The population's subsequent reaction to this statement swelled the anti-US vote of Evo Morales in the last three days of the campaign by 9 percent putting him on the heels of Sánchez de Lozada's vote. Evo Morales of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) received 20.94% of the popular vote. The center-right neopopulist 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. Under 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[edit]

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 aired long-standing grievances against the government, others were targeted entirely locally, 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 affecting above all the urban workers and the farming/indigenous population fed widespread support for protests in general. 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 for gradual coca reduction but not total eradication; the indigenous farmers of the La Paz Aymara region wanted a "re-founding" of Bolivia, with the recognition and inclusion of Bolivia's indigenous ethnic groups as legitimate political blocs, and a type of economic de-centralization based on said recognition of indigenous groups as legitimate political actors.[5] Other demands included autonomy for their territories; urban workers, primarily in La Paz, and miners protested against the proceeds of increasing natural gas production going to foreigners.

Demands for a return to the corporatist state and the nationalization of Bolivia's hydrocarbon resources assumed primacy, and calls began to be heard for the resignation of Sánchez de Lozada. 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 a town, Warisata, confrontations between protestors blocking the road and the army led to six dead, among them two soldiers and a child aged 8, shot in her own house. According to one conscript involved, Edwin Aguilar, the soldiers were ordered to "shoot anything that moved."[7]

A few days later, in early October, it was 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 runs high against Chile since Bolivia lost its coastal territory to Chile in the late 19th century War of the Pacific. The main highway from the city of El Alto down to neighboring La Paz was blockaded and the local population called out to protest. 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 October 11, President Sánchez de Lozada promulgated Supreme Decree 27209 which ordered the militarization of the gas plants and the transport of hydrocarbons. This decree safeguarded the actions of the military, expressly signaling in the third article that : “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 through densely populated poor neighborhoods to pass safely down to La Paz.

Protestors tried to block the convoys at several points along their route. Alteño residents report that government troops started shooting indiscriminately which resulted in the death of 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 the Catholic church and most civil society organisations called it a 'massacre.'

In response to the violence, Sanchez de Lozada’s 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. Sanchez de Lozada while blaming the violence on 'narco-sindicalists', proposed a National Dialogue and promised to put export plans to a national referendum, but demands for his resignation continued to rise.

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

According to official figures, 67 civilian deaths resulted from the gas war with around 400 injuries.

Trial of responsibility[edit]

In 2004, after a concerted campaign by the families of the victims and human rights groups that gathered over 700,000 signatures on petitions, 2/3 of Bolivia’s Congress voted to authorize the “Trial of Responsibility”, to determine whether Sánchez de Lozada and his cabinet ministers should be held legally responsible for the violence. This included many from Sanchez de Lozada'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, including forensic studies, crime scene investigations and eyewitness testimony. Evo Morales, one of the key protest leaders also voluntarily offered evidence. In August 2011 the 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[edit]

On November 11, 2008, Bolivia formally served the US government with a request to extradite Sánchez de Lozada back 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, no dual criminality condition existed as no US president could be charged for the accusations made of Sanchez de Lozada by the Bolivian state.

On November 10, 2009, the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida ruled that the claims for crimes against humanity had no case and left open extrajudicial killings to move forward in two related U.S. cases against Gonzalo Daniel Sánchez de Lozada Sánchez Bustamante and former Bolivian Defense Minister Jose Carlos Sánchez Berzaín.

The cases, Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez Berzaín, and Mamani, et al. v. Sánchez de Lozada, seek compensatory and punitive damages under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS).[10] On May 20, 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 August 19, 2014 pending defendants' appeal of the district court's decision, and appellants-defendants filed their brief to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on January 14, 2015. Plaintiffs-appellees filed their brief on March 6, 2015.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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. ^ http://www.clarin.com/diario/2002/06/28/i-03701.htm
  5. ^ Garcia Linera, "State Crisis and Popular Power", New Left Review, no.37, Jan/Feb 2006.
  6. ^ Como Cayó Goni (in Spanish) .
  7. ^ 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).
  8. ^ http://www.lexivox.org/norms/BO-DS-27209.xhtml
  9. ^ http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2003/10/15/034n2mun.php?origen=index.html&fly=1
  10. ^ http://ccrjustice.org/Mamani-v-Sanchez
  11. ^ http://www.clubmadrid.org/cmadrid/index.php?id=144
  12. ^ http://sanchezdelozada.info/

External links[edit]

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