Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada

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Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, known to Bolivians as "Goni," is a former Bolivian president, serving one full term and one partial term: 1993-1997 and 2002-2003. He resigned in 2003 amidst popular protests calling for his resignation. Goni represented a white minority government in an 85% indigenous and mestizo nation.[1] At the time of his ousting, there had never been an indigenous president of Bolivia.

Goni played a key role in Bolivia's 1985 "shock therapy" and continued neoliberal "reforms" throughout the rest of his time in office. In his first term in office (1993-1997), he carried out a process of partial privatization, which put state enterprises and the country's oilfields under the control of transnational corporations.

Early Life

Goni, the son of Enrique Sanchez de Lozada, a Bolivian diplomat, was born July 1, 1931. He moved with his family to the United States when he was one year old. There, he learned English as his first language, Spanish second. When Bolivia was overtaken by a military coup, Goni's father's diplomacy career in the U.S. turned to exile. Goni's father taught at Williams College and Harvard University when he was not serving as a diplomat. During World War II he was an adviser to Nelson Rockefeller, who was then in charge of inter-American affairs in the State Department.[2] Thus, Goni was raised in Washington, D.C., Boston, and Williamstown, MA.

Goni earned a degree in Philosophy and English Literature at University of Chicago in 1951 and then returned to Bolivia after graduation.[3]

Goni married a former Miss Bolivia, Ximena Iturralde Monje.[4]

Early Career

  • 1953-1957: Founder and manager of Telecine Ltda (a documentary and commercial film production company)[4]
  • 1957-1962: Founder and general manager of Andean Geo–Services Ltd. (aerial photography for oil exploration companies)
  • 1962-1982: Founder and president of Compania Minera del Sur (Comsur) (zinc, tin, gold, silver, and lead mining)
  • 1979-1980, 1982-1985: Member of Parliament
  • 1985-1986: Senator
  • 1986-1988: Minister for Planning and Coordination
  • 1988: Party chief of the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement
  • 1993-1997-2002-2003: President of Bolivia

Through his mining company, Gonzalo became extremely wealthy.

1993-1997 Presidency

During his first presidency, Goni privatized state company, such as YPFB, the country's gas and oil company. "State companies were sold to the highest bidder, who gained management control as well as half the shares. The remaining shares were to be divided among Bolivia's adult population and held in retirement accounts."[4]

2002-2003 Presidency

February 2003 Protests

In February 2003, attempted to impose a 12 percent tax hike on "the middle class" - anyone making more than twice the minimum wage of $58 per month - in response to an IMF condition that Bolivia increase tax revenues before receiving new loans.[5] The IMF also demanded Bolivia cut government spending. Protests against the tax began when 7000 police walked off the job in protest on February 12, also asking for unpaid wages and a raise. On the second day of protesting, the police and army shot at one another outside the presidential palace in the Plaza Murillo. At the end of the shooting, a total of 30 people were dead, four soldiers and nine police among them.[6] Goni dropped the income tax on the second day of protests.

The Gas Wars

The Gas Wars actually had their roots in July 2002 when 21 organizations, headed by Evo Morales and Filemon Escobar, formed the National Coordinator for the Defense and Recovery of Gas (Coordinora Nacional por la Defensa del Gas) to organize protests to "recover gas for Bolivians."[7] Bolivia has enormous gas reserves that foreign corporations found highly profitable, and yet many Bolivians live in poverty. A consortium of foreign oil companies proposed a natural gas distribution network to ship Bolivian gas to Mexico and the U.S. through either Chile or Peru. While Chile was a better option economically, the Bolivian people still resent Chile for taking away its territory on the Pacific coast in 1879. Even before Goni became president in August 2002, protests in favor of nationalizing gas were already common.

And yet, the final months of protest that led to the ousting of Goni began with a roadblock in the Altiplano town of Warisata, demanding the release of Edwin Huampo, "a campesino jailed for the alleged murder of two cattle rustlers near Achacachi after a twenty-day hunger strike failed to achieve any results." The blockade coincided with a day of national gas protests (among other demands) and it succeeded in stranding a group of foreign tourists in the town of Sorata.[8]

The government sent the army and the police to help the tourists get through the blockade. When it reached Warisata on September 20, 2003, a confrontation occurred, leaving one police officer and five campesinos dead, including an 8 year old girl, killed in her home.[9] "The killings in Warisata unified and radicalized Aymara campesinos throughout the Altiplano, who reinforced road blockades and declared strikes, both in rural areas and in the cities of El Alto and La Paz."

"By October 12, when the military killed more than 20 people in El Alto, the demands of the protestors had already shifted from their original position. What began as calls for "Gas por Peru" - demands that the government alter its plans so as to export natural gas through a Peruvian rather than Chilean port - had transformed into a widespread rejection of export plans altogether. Protestors now called for the recovery and industrialization of the nation's gas reserves - that is, the strengthening of state control and the simultaneous weakening of private, foreign influence over natural gas, together with coordinated, state-led efforts to use the gas for the country's social development."[10]

Among their complaints, protestors felt that "Bolivia's 18 percent take from the gas is too small."[11] By October 3, Evo Morales and his party had weighed in supporting the protestors. The day after the crackdown on El Alto, where the government had declared martial law, Goni announced thatBolivia "would not export natural gas to new markets... until a new dialogue is under way."[12] In other words, he was giving into the protestors' initial demands. But, as the protestors demands had changed, the protests did not end.

Tuesday, October 14:

"Many protesters spent Tuesday building or strengthening barricades that have virtually strangled La Paz and El Alto. Shops, banks and offices were closed in the two cities, an urban sprawl on the high Bolivian altiplano that is home to about 1.5 million people. The few people going to work had to walk.
"At the El Alto International Airport, anxious-looking foreigners boarded charter flights out of the capital. Routine commercial flights were halted over the weekend amid security concerns for travelers arriving here.
"The president made no public appearances Tuesday, ensconced in his home instead of going to the presidential palace in the downtown Murillo plaza, which also was under heavy military guard. Four small tanks were deployed in the plaza and soldiers with automatic weapons stood by."[13]

Wednesday, October 15:

"President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada's hold on power grew more tenuous on Tuesday, as demonstrations demanding his resignation spread to provincial cities, and important political allies scrambled to distance themselves from him."
"More than 50 people have been killed here since Saturday in clashes between mostly Indian demonstrators carrying sticks and slingshots and the heavily armed troops the president ordered into the streets.
"A spokesman for the coroner's office here said "nearly every last one" of the victims had been shot to death, some at point blank range.
"Of those known to have been killed, only one has been confirmed to be a soldier. Citing witness accounts, local news organizations reported that he was executed by his commanding officer after refusing to fire on demonstrators.
"As support for Mr. Sanchez de Lozada, a staunch ally in the American war on drugs, was ebbing here, his allies abroad were trying to shore up his position. In Washington, the State Department issued a statement warning that "the United States will not tolerate any interruption of constitutional order and will not support any regime that results from undemocratic means.""[14]

Resignation

Goni resigned on October 17, 2003, sending a letter of resignation to Congress. It was read out loud in Congress, which was broadcast on TV. In his letter, he wrote: "As I submit my resignation for the consideration of the honourable National Congress, I do so with the profound conviction that its acceptance is no longer consistent with the norm that a democratically elected president cannot be removed through outlawed mechanisms of pressure and violence."[15] He noted that it was the duty of Congress to accept or reject his resignation, and made the point that removing him would not solve Bolivia's problems.

Articles and Resources

References

  1. Kevin G. Hall, "Unrest Still Runs through in Bolivia," Knight Ridder, February 15, 2003.
  2. Shirley Christian, LA PAZ JOURNAL; Election Talking Point: Does Gringo Accent Hurt?," New York Times, March 24, 1989, Accessed April 23, 2012.
  3. Commanding Heights: Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, PBS.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, Accessed April 23, 2012.
  5. Kevin G. Hall, "Unrest Still Runs through in Bolivia," Knight Ridder, February 15, 2003.
  6. Juan Forero, "Unrest Clouds Bolivia Leader's Future," The New York Times, March 10, 2003.
  7. Benjamin H. Kohl and Linda C. Farthing, Impasse in Bolivia: Neoliberal Hegemony and Popular Resistance, p. 173
  8. Benjamin H. Kohl and Linda C. Farthing, Impasse in Bolivia: Neoliberal Hegemony and Popular Resistance, p. 174
  9. David V. Carruthers, Environmental Justice in Latin America: Problems, Promise, and Practice, p. 249
  10. David V. Carruthers, Environmental Justice in Latin America: Problems, Promise, and Practice, p. 250
  11. Bolivian police and demonstrators clash over gas project," Agence France Presse, October 2, 2003
  12. Carmen Gentile, "Bolivian VP slams president's crackdown," United Press International, October 13, 2003.
  13. Kevin Gray, "Bolivian demonstrators build new street barricades and demand president resign," The Associated Press, October 14, 2003.
  14. Larry Rohter, "Bolivia Leader Loses Allies As Demonstrations Spread," The New York Times, October 15, 2003.
  15. BBC News, Published: 2003/10/18 07:15:22 GMT

External Articles

February 2003:

  • Luis Bolivar and Kevin G. Hall, "Rioting in Bolivia kills 20; president under pressure," San Jose Mercury News, February 14, 2003.
  • Kevin G. Hall, "Unrest Still Runs through in Bolivia," Knight Ridder, February 15, 2003.
  • Juan Forero, "Economic Crisis and Vocal Opposition Test Bolivia's President," New York Times, February 16, 2003

March 2003:

  • Juan Forero, "Unrest Clouds Bolivia Leader's Future," The New York Times, March 10, 2003.

October 2003:

  • "Bolivian police and demonstrators clash over gas project," Agence France Presse, October 2, 2003.
  • Andres D'Alessandro and Hector Tobar, "Poverty feeds movement toward Bolivian civil war: President's approval rating only 9 %. Indian majority growing restive and nationalism on rise as food prices skyrocket," Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2003.
  • Carmen Gentile, "Bolivian VP slams president's crackdown," United Press International, October 13, 2003.
  • Kevin Gray, "Bolivian demonstrators build new street barricades and demand president resign," The Associated Press, October 14, 2003.
  • Larry Rohter, "Bolivia Leader Loses Allies As Demonstrations Spread," The New York Times, October 15, 2003.
  • Kevin Gray, "Bolivia unrest rooted in years of free market reforms that failed to end crushing poverty", The Associated Press, October 16, 2003.
  • Jeremy McDermott, "Marchers defy tanks in struggle to oust president Calls for calm after 60 are killed in street clashes in Bolivian power struggle. Jeremy McDermott in La Paz reports," The Daily Telegraph, " October 16, 2003.
  • Carmen Gentile, "Analysis: Is this it for Bolivia's leader?," United Press International, October 16, 2003.
  • Kevin Gray, "Thousands seek ouster of Bolivia's president amid deep popular distrust of economic change," The Associated Press, October 17, 2003.
  • Kevin Gray, "Bolivian president resigns after weeks of deadly protests, aide says," The Associated Press, October 17, 2003.
  • Jon Jeter, "Protests Force Bolivian Leader to Resign; Rallies Against Gas Pipeline Are Decisive; Vice President Is Sworn In," The Washington Post, October 18, 2003.
  • Larry Rohter, "Bolivian Leader Resigns and His Vice President Steps In," The New York Times, October 18, 2003.
  • Antonio Raluy, "Bolivians who helped topple a president get to work clearing roads, "Agence France Presse -- English, October 19, 2003.
  • Vanessa Arrington, "Tens of thousands of Indians march on Bolivia's capital, celebrating a popular revolt," The Associated Press, October 20, 2003.
  • Jimmy Langman and Maria Cristina Caballero, "A President Gets the Boot," Newsweek, October 27, 2003.
  • Brian Levinson, "Ousted Bolivian president speaks out," University Wire, The Hoya, October 31, 2003.