The U.S. Department of State accepted a request by Bolivian authorities to begin the extradition process for former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, Senior Prosecutor Jose Manuel Gutierrez stated Monday.
The decision to accept the request marks the formal beginning of lengthy process that could see Lozada extradited to Bolivia to face charges over his alleged role in the deaths of Bolivians during a social uprising in October 2003.
That social conflict, known as the “Bolivian Gas War,” saw at least 64 people killed and further 400 injured.
The documentation related to the request will now be passed onto the U.S. Department of Justice, a step Gutierrez qualified as being “very important.”
Rogelio Mayta, a lawyer representing the victims, warned there was a still a long way to go.
"We receive with cautious optimism the news that the extradition request … was accepted because, although it is an important step, there is a long way to go and in the end the request will be resolved politically by the United States Department of State," said Mayta.
He further warned that the United States government had long protected Lozada from extradition. A previous request to have the former president extradited to Bolivia was denied.
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada resigned the presidency on Oct. 17, 2003 amidst massive protests over his gas export plans and subsequently fled to the United States.
Lozada and 15 of his ministers were charged by the Bolivian Supreme Court with the crime of genocide in 2005.