- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 8, 2003

Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who was recently forced to resign as Bolivia’s president, is warning that a resurgence of left-wing populism threatens the future of democracy in his country.

Mr. Sanchez de Lozada resigned Oct. 16 following a month-long revolt by Indian groups who were angry over a plan to export Bolivian natural gas.

“When they can’t get what they want in Congress they get it in the streets … that’s how all this began,” he told students at American University in Washington last week.

The former president said one of the leaders of the revolt is also heavily involved with growers of coca, the plant used to make cocaine.

He said he fears that Bolivia is becoming a “dictatorship by the proletariat.”

Mr. Sanchez de Lozada also said that even though his vice president, Carlos Mesa, contributed to his downfall, he hopes Mr. Mesa can stay in power and respect the nation’s constitution.

The violent protests, in which 80 persons died, began in opposition to the government plan to export natural gas reserves to the United States and Mexico through Chile.

Bolivian Indians depend on gas for cooking and “they were told that I was going to export all the gas. … that they would have to pay more for it,” Mr. Sanchez de Lozada said.

The plan, he said, was to use the exports to fund health and education programs.

Bolivia is “so poor that even the rich are poor,” and people are frustrated and they want jobs, he said.

He said the revolt’s leaders are radicals in control of just one-third of Congress, who are against free trade, globalization, and are not interested in democracy.

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