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U.S. Refuses to Extradite de Lozada, Backs Immunity for Ex-Mexican President

HeadlineSep 10, 2012

The Obama administration is drawing controversy for siding with two former Latin American leaders in unrelated cases involving the massacres of civilians. The White House has informed Bolivia that it will not extradite former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to face charges over the mass killing of Bolivian protesters in 2003. At least 64 civilians were slain and more than 400 were wounded when the Bolivian military cracked down on protests that sparked an uprising against de Lozada’s government. De Lozada has been indicted in Bolivia but has not been tried because he has been living safely in exile in the United States ever since. On Friday, Bolivian President Evo Morales said the Obama administration had rejected Bolivia’s extradition request on the grounds a civilian leader cannot be tried for a military’s crimes. Morales blasted the decision, calling the United States a “paradise of impunity.”

Bolivian President Evo Morales: “The U.S. can’t send a letter saying civil society can’t be responsible for military actions. I reject these claims. I do not agree. This is a pretext for the U.S. to turn into a haven for delinquents, a paradise of impunity. It is easy for us to see that a country that has never respected the dignity and sovereignty of Latin America can’t extradite someone who’s done so much harm to the Bolivian people and works for the American empire.”

In a separate move, the U.S. government has filed a court briefing declaring former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo enjoys immunity from a Connecticut civil suit for alleged war crimes. The suit accuses Zedillo of responsibility for a 1997 massacre in the Chiapas village of Acteal when government-backed paramilitary groups killed 45 people as part of an attempt to quash the Zapatista popular uprising. Zedillo now lives in Connecticut and teaches at Yale University. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they will be forced to drop the case as a result of Zedillo’s immunity.

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