Compare and contrast with other ongoing asylum controversies. Via the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald writes:
In October 2003, the intensely pro-US president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, sent his security forces to suppress growing popular protests against the government’s energy and globalization policies.
Using high-powered rifles and machine guns, his military forces killed 67 men, women and children, and injured 400 more, almost all of whom were poor and from the nation’s indigenous Aymara communities. Dozens of protesters had been killed by government forces in the prior months when troops were sent to suppress them.
The resulting outrage drove Sanchez de Lozada from office and then into exile in the United States, where he was welcomed by his close allies in the Bush administration. He has lived under a shield of asylum in the US ever since.
The Bolivians, however, have never stopped attempting to bring their former leader to justice for ordering the killing of indigenous peaceful protesters in cold blood (as Time Magazine put it: “according to witnesses, the military fired indiscriminately and without warning in El Alto neighborhoods”). In 2007, Bolivian prosecutors formally charged him with genocide for the October 2003 incident, charges which were approved by the nation’s supreme court. Bolivia then demanded his extradition from the US for him to stand trial.
On Friday night, the Bolivian government revealed that it had just been notified by the Obama administration that the US government has refused Bolivia’s extradition request, on the grounds that a civilian leader cannot be tried for crimes committed by the military.
The refusal of the Obama administration to allow Sánchez de Lozada to stand trial for what are obviously very serious criminal allegations is completely consistent with American conceptions of justice and is worth examining for that reason.
Let’s begin with two vital facts about the former Bolivian leader. First, Sánchez de Lozada was exactly the type of America-revering-and-obeying leader the US has always wanted for other nations, especially smaller ones with important energy resources.
The former leader – a multimillionaire mining executive – was a loyal partner in America’s drug war in the region and, more importantly, a vehement proponent and relentless crusader for free trade and free market policies favored by the US: policies that the nation’s indigenous poor long believed (with substantial basis) resulted in their impoverishment while enriching Bolivia’s small Europeanized elite.
So, this extradition refusal is, in one sense, a classic and common case of the US exploiting pretenses of law and justice to protect its own leaders and those of its key allies from the rule of law, even when faced with allegations of the most egregious wrongdoing. If the Obama DOJ so aggressively shielded accused Bush war criminals from all forms of accountability, it is hardly surprising that it does the same for loyal US puppets.
Read the rest at the Guardian