The Bolivian government has ordered the extradition of former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and his former Minister of Defense Carlos Sanchez from the United States to face trial in Bolivia.
"To complete justice, it is necessary that Sanchez de Lozada and Sanchez Berzain, previously sentenced, be extradited to our country to be presented before Bolivia's justice system," Minister of the President Alfredo Rada said in a Wednesday press conference.
Sanchez de Lozada, known as 'Goni,' is charged with at least 60 deaths and 400 injuries on October 11, 2003, when his government dispatched military units to "protect private property" during Bolivia's gas wars. When protesters tried to block the gas convoys, witnesses say soldiers began to shoot indiscriminately.
'Goni,' along with five other former military leaders, was found guilty in 2011. Although the government immediately requested extradition, the U.S. Department of State had denied the requests until yesterday, when a case between victims of the families and the Court of Fort Lauderdale in Florida ruled in favor of the victims.
The U.S. court also demanded Sanchez de Lozada pay US$10 million to the victims' families.
After the decision was announced, Bolivian President Evo Morales expressed on Twitter his "respect and admiration for the families of the victims of October 2003; for their perseverance, firmness and strength to achieve a judicial decision that brings us ever closer to justice."
Rada said the decision is an "important step" towards justice for the 60 deaths and hundreds of injuries incurred during the massacre.
"The Bolivian people do not forget; the Bolivian people remember and the Bolivian people know that Sanchez Berzain and Sanchez de Lozada have pending accounts with Bolivian justice," Rada said.
Sanchez de Lozada served two non-sequential terms in Bolivia's presidential palace, from 1993 to 1997 and again from 2002 to 2003, when he was forced to resign.