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Former President of Bolivia Says: ”Chávez Ought to Be Investigated”

Editorial from | La Razón

La Paz. 30 June 2005 | In an interview with the ATB network, the former chief executive said that he trusted Carlos Mesa up to the last minute. He is certain Evo Morales will do poorly in the general elections, unless the United States Ambassador were to support him.

Sarcastic, looking good and certain of his own words, former president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, while in the United States, yesterday granted an exclusive interview to journalist Jorge Gestoso for the Bolivian network ATB.

It was an hour during which the former head of state insistently requested that there be an investigation of the events of October 2003, denounced that there had been a conspiracy financed from abroad, predicted poor participation by the MAS in the next national elections and expressed his desire to return to the country, "even if it is for my own funeral." He avoided calling Carlos Mesa a traitor, but assured that Mesa had left the country further divided.

Since you left power in 2003, there has been time for reflections. When you look back and put that into perspective: What is the first thing you see?

There wasn’t much time, because I had a very full life. I have fought to bring about an impartial investigation by the UN or the OAS, but it has not been possible for what has happened to be investigated and I have faced being judged without any investigation and without any foundation.

We are talking about the repression of a group of demonstrators that, I believe, claimed the lives of 60 persons…

I believe it is much fewer, but it deserves an investigation. I am not against that and let there be a trial, but first let there be an investigation and then an accusation. My problem has been having to fight in order to be investigated by impartial people…amnesty was given to those of the other side—Evo Morales, Felipe Quispe and the so-called social groups.

In looking back, what do you think cut your term short?

It is difficult to say; there are so many factors that came into play...During this exile I have had to worry about my economic interests, I have had to sell my business firms at fire-sale prices, but there was no other choice; they weren’t being threatened, but there was always a risk. I have also been doomed to politics; I continue to be leader of my party (MNR), albeit from a distance. Then, when I look back I find that it is very hard to answer you. The worst thing that one can do under these circumstances is to blame others, the second worst thing is to blame yourself…it is somewhere in the middle, it is a grey area where I do not yet have either the distance or the impartiality in order to answer.

After the events that cost you the presidency, you pointed to Morales and to the Venezuelan president (Hugo Chávez) as the wicked hands behind the incidents in October. Today do you confirm that Chávez was behind it all?

There were many factors. In what happened to me, as I suppose has happened in the departure of Carlos Mesa, there is the narcotraffic factor. In Colombia, at an open meeting, that government's Secretary General for Intelligence made a statement to the effect that they had identified 70 people from the FARC who had been involved in my downfall, also there were people from the Shining Path. You people know that up on the Altiplano—Felipe Quispe—they are closely linked to the Shining Path, because it is a safe haven and there are people who have settled in La Paz, El Alto and the Altiplano. That is why I ask that there be an in-depth investigation as to what Venezuela's participation has been, because we know that Evo spends the whole day with Chávez and that he does not hide his support for all the misdeeds committed by Evo Morales in Bolivia.

You would then say that there was or that there is a connection...

There is no concealment. Evo had been dining with Chávez right before the disturbances began in my case. On May 1st Fidel Castro, Chávez and Evo Morales were all together, therefore it is known that that connection exists. I cannot say how the money arrives or how it is earned, but there is an advisory link, it is quite evident and I believe it ought to be investigated.

Do you believe that Mesa had the same thing occur to him as what happened to you, in the sense that Chávez may be behind the overthrow?

I cannot say that; I am far away and it would not be opportune for me to comment upon that, but they have very similar circumstances. It is said that it has been even more difficult for the people of La Paz, El Alto and Bolivia; because Carlos Mesa announced that he was not going to use force and was not going to maintain order…but it led to devastating economic, moral and spiritual harm; the people felt completely unprotected by his government.

How would you describe the Carlos Mesa government?

I cannot be fully objective, but I notice that the country became more divided regionally. Santa Cruz and the eastern part, which we call The Half Moon—which make up two thirds of Bolivia, even though only one third of the population lives in that region—are confronting the Andean part, and it is a great shame because most of the people in the tropical part are people who have migrated and are working for the good of that region. They have become exceptionally intransigent and there is a very dangerous confrontation that has become more patent...I believe that is the regrettable result of the Carlos Mesa administration.

Would you say that Carlos Mesa betrayed you? What role did he play in your departure from power?

That is one of the reasons why I am asking for an investigation. I do not know, had I known I would have corrected the situation. He always has been and was, up until the last minute, a man I highly trust.

But…Is there something going on?

I don’t know, so they say, but I would like for there to be an investigation. The worst thing is to accuse, as I was accused, without any investigation and without any argument, and I do not want to go into that area. I have plenty of problems.

When you resigned you gave a premonition and spoke of the difficult times that might be expected for Bolivia. How do you see Bolivia today? How would you describe it?

Bolivia is a very fragile democracy, but it has a good side and a bad side; it is at a crossroads.

What is the good side and what is the bad side?

The good side is that we have an independent President, a man of the law, a former president of the Supreme Court, young and able to maneuver. He has the image of an honest man and I do not believe that he seeks to become a lasting figure or that he has an inflated ego; I believe he is a reasonable man. His role is clearly established by the Constitution; he has to call for elections for President and Vice President to carry out the balance of the term...but that is not going to solve the problem in Bolivia.

Why has Bolivia ended up this way? Why did it happen?

Do you have several hours for this interview?... Well, what I believe does us great harm is the problem of the presidential system. If I only could, what with the difficulties I had just in February, when there was a political uproar financed from abroad...

Financed by whom?

That is something I still have to keep confidential, but if I had been able to call for an election, as is done under a parliamentary system, I would have received a vote of confidence or they would have taken confidence away from me and I would have moved on to Congress, as they do in Europe, to the opposition or to another role that may befall me in politics; but the problem in Bolivia is that there is no intention of consulting the people. What has happened is that the so-called social groups are people tied to narcotraffic, not in dealing with the drug, but they produce it...

Are we speaking of Evo Morales?

Evo Morales, and we know there are other movements, they are holding the country hostage because there is no danger of a military coup. When this used to happen, the military came in, killed a bunch of people and established a de facto system. Since there is now an international system—such as the OAS, etc.—they know that there isn’t going to be this danger; therefore, that system has to be replaced.

You say that there was political turmoil in February financed from abroad and you do not want to say who the persons behind this are. Why not?

Simply because it still has to be investigated. I want to emphasize that I went to all the human rights organizations and asked that they investigate what is happening, I want to go and face whatever accusation, but I want an impartial investigation. Former President (Jimmy) Carter asked this of Mesa and Mesa sent letters to the UN and the OAS, but (the investigation) never took place…it appears as if they were in league with each other.

What is your version of what happened in Bolivia in your case?

I would say that there was well organized and financed political turmoil meant to make me leave the presidency and keep me from fulfilling what I saw as the future of Bolivia, which has immense riches in hydrocarbons and I was certain that by exporting it under good conditions we were going to be able to put its benefits to use in education, health and infrastructure; and Bolivia would turn Latin America's biggest problem into an example for development.

In other words, it is not untoward to say that Bolivia is a hostage of foreign forces?

I would say yes, because they are holding it on tenterhooks, well cornered…but there is another way: How can nine million people not live off of all that wealth from hydrocarbons? The country was going to change radically within five years by putting the gas resources to good use.

And who did not allow it?

Very powerful forces. There is an anti-systemic project supported by NGO's that do not want to respect the rules of the game. How are you going to play a game without respecting the rules and the judges? Today, Evo Morales and the radical people do not want elections...which they are not going to win unless they distort them. There ought to be a big effort by the international community meant to assure us that those elections are honest and transparent.

But Morales was the force receiving the second most votes in the elections…

Yes, but he had a huge amount of help at that juncture: a statement by the then American ambassador that attacked him. But this time we have already seen what the man is like, what he does to the country, how harmful, antidemocratic and coercive he is in his actions. I do not think he would have any difficulty coming in third, but let him prove himself under a democracy.

“Evo Morales, and we know there are other movements, they are holding the country hostage because they know that there is no danger of military coups.”

“If the Ambassador (of the United States) promises not to attack him (Evo Morales), I am certain that (in the next elections) he will come in third or fourth.”

“They say, concerning what happened in Sucre, that they arranged the killing of a demonstrator who had been brought in all the way from La Paz in order to interrupt the democratic process.”

Translation by W.K.

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