One week, two sets of plaintiffs, two court decisions

Last week, the Bolivian Supreme Court convicted five former military officers of genocide for their involvement in “at least” 64 murders in 2003, according to the BBC. That very same week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an Alien Tort Claims Act suit against a former Bolivian President over the same incidents. See Mamani v. Sanchez de Lozada, No. 09-16246 (11th Cir. Aug. 29, 2011) (PDF).

The five convicted officers, Roberto Claros Flores, Juan Veliz Herrera, Jose Ovaldo Quiroga and Gonzalo Alberto Rocabado, and Luis Alberto Aranda Granados, were sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in prison by the Bolivian court. In the U.S. suit, plaintiffs sought damages from former Bolivian President Gonzalo Daniel Sánchez de Lozada Sánchez Bustamante and Defense Minister Jose Carlos Sanchez Berzai for his actions during the same incidents during the country’s 2003 “Gas War”.

When Mamani  was initially filed, the Washington Post called the case the “most notable civil suit against a foreign former head of state residing in the United States since legal action was brought against former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos in the 1980s.”

Does this mean Sanchez de Lozada is in trouble back home in Bolivia?  Yes and no, explains Al Jazeera.

Indicted in the [Bolivian criminal] case but not tried was Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, Bolivia’s president at the time of the killings. He was forced into exile by the widespread popular anger the killings provoked.

Carlos Sanchez Berzain, the then-defence minister, was also indicted but not tried. Bolivian law prohibits trials in absentia and both men have found safety living in the United States.


Bolivia has sought the extradition of Sanchez de Lozada and Sanchez Berzain, who lives in Florida.

This means that until the United States extradites Sanchez de Lozada per a 2008 request by the Bolivian government, his legal woes are, for the most part, a thing of the past.


About Charles Donefer

I am an attorney in New York City.
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