BOLIVIA (video): Before Evo, there was “Goni, the Gringo”
In 2003, a good friend and I attended a speech at American University by just-thrown-out-of-his-country Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada, who days earlier was forced to resign as president of Bolivia. We had been watching the news from Bolivia the previous few weeks and witnessed the hundreds of thousands of largely indigenous citizens of Bolivia who were determined not to let him export Bolivia’s vast gas reserves. We thought it would be good to attend his speech and demonstrate a little solidarity with the people of Bolivia — the ones back in Bolivia, that is.
When Sanchez de Losada became president for the second time in 2002 (first term was 1993-1997) he received a great deal of help from the United States. In an article by Jane Hamsher that I found on Fire Dog Lake, we learn that Sanchez de Losada was given a boost in his campaign by a bank of Democratic campaign strategists that included high rollers such as James Carville and Bob Shrum. A documentary film was made of this “collaboration” called “Our Brand is Crisis” and you can see a trailer of it.
“Goni,” as he is known, was born in 1930 and spent virtually all of his school years in the U.S. in exile with his father. He returned to Bolivia in 1951 armed with an American education and American accented Spanish. In later years, he earned his street name in Bolivia, “El Gringo.”
Even though the Carville/Shrum team helped Goni attain his second term as president, they were unsuccessful in getting him off of shaky ground – he won the election with a bit over 20 percent of the vote and the privatizations he shepherded through during his last administration were still a fresh. But, when he announced the intention to export natural gas, all hell broke loose. All opposition parties fell into a swift coalition against Goni, including Evo Morales’ MAS or Movement to Socialism.
Goni resisted the will of the people over several months. First, with a proposal to impose an onerous income tax in early 2003 and then the gas export decision later in the year. Yet, it was his ordering the Bolivian military to use deadly force against largely unarmed demonstrators which tipped the scales. Before it was all over, well over 80 people were killed and 500 people injured (definite numbers of killed and injured are still unavailable). Below are two videos, Parts 1 and 2, showing the confrontations between the troops and the unarmed demonstrators which took place in 2003. In mid-October 2003, when hundreds of thousands of Bolivians came down from the Altiplano to La Paz to demand the president’s resignation, Goni was a goner. Sanchez de Losada was later indicted on crimes of genocide. Of course, since he fled here to the US, the government has not been willing to cooperate with the current Bolivian government to have him extradited to Bolivia to face criminal charges.
Oh, and the night in October 2003 when my friend and I went to hear Goni speak at American University, I lost my nerve, but she didn’t — she interrupted his speech twice and called him a murderer and a thief.
Here are a few references you might want to check out:
VIDEOS OF 2003 BOLIVIAN MILITARY ATTACKS ON DEMONSTRATORS
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