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Entries in Bolivia (3)

Saturday
Jul062013

Bolivian President Evo Morales Makes Asylum Offer to Edward Snowden

AIZAR RALDES/AFP/GettyImages(SUCRE, Bolivia) -- Bolivia has joined the ranks of South American countries offering refuge to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said Saturday that Snowden was welcome in his country.

Morales said he was making the offer as a protest against the United States and European nations he accused of blocking his flight home from a Moscow summit because of suspicions that Snowden might have been aboard his plane.

Federal authorities last month filed espionage charges against Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor accused of disclosing secret anti-terrorism programs run by the U.S. government.

Bolivia is the third country to offer Snowden asylum. Both Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega also extended the offer to Snowden on Friday.

"I have decided to offer humanitarian asylum to the young American Edward Snowden," Maduro said Friday evening, adding that he was doing so, "in the name of the dignity of Latin America."

"He can come and live here, away from the persecution of American imperialism," Maduro said.
Just an hour earlier, Nicaragua had offered what appeared to be conditional asylum.

"If the circumstances permit it, we would gladly receive Snowden here and would grant him asylum here," Ortega said, though he did not elaborate on what those circumstances would be.

It is unclear whether Morales' offer was in response to a formal petition for asylum that Snowden had submitted.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Nov282012

Seven Bolivian Officials Arrested, Accused of Extorting Jailed American Man

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia) -- Seven Bolivian government officials were arrested on Tuesday after being accused of a plan to rob and extort an American who has been jailed without charge in the South American country for 18 months, according to Bolivia's interior minister.

Jacob Ostreicher, a businessman from Brooklyn who has maintained his innocence, has long said that Bolivian officials targeted him for his successful rice-growing venture they seized when he was arrested last year after being accused of money laundering.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero announced the arrests of the seven officials, including the Interior Ministry's director of legal affairs, Fernando Rivera, and the judge who first jailed Ostreicher. But he offered few details other than to say those detained were suspected of illegal enrichment and extortion, among other crimes.

In May, Nightline traveled to Palmasola, the Bolivian prison where Ostreicher had been held since his arrest in June 2011, to hear his story first-hand.

"Absolutely 100-percent innocent," Ostreicher told Nightline anchor Terry Moran at the time. "And the prosecutors know I am 100-percent innocent."

In Palmasola, there are no guards inside the walls. Prisoners govern themselves. They walk around the streets and alleys between the pavilions of cells. Some bring their wives and children to live with them. Murders are common, as are drugs and prostitution.

"I never, never go out at night," Ostreicher said at the time. "It is absolutely frightening, walking around, like what you -- wherever you walked today, at night, it's very scary."

Despite the arrests, Ostreicher's wife, Miriam Ungar, today told Nightline exclusively that she is keeping her expectations for her husband's freedom tempered, saying she was not getting her hopes up that the arrests meant her husband would be released.

Jacob Ostreicher, a 53-year-old former flooring contractor, turned to growing rice in Bolivia in 2008 after he said a family friend -- a prominent lawyer in Switzerland -- told him it would be a promising investment opportunity.

Ostreicher said he put $200,000, his life savings, into the venture and became a very junior partner in a $25 million project. He said things went well for a year or so. The first harvest yielded nearly 40 million pounds of rice. More than 200 Bolivian workers were employed. Ostreicher helped manage it, traveling frequently to Bolivia.

Then in 2011, Bolivian police arrested one of Ostreicher's former employees and accused him of being involved with drug criminals. Ostreicher said he cooperated fully with police -- and then was arrested himself.

Prosecutors claimed they were investigating whether the $25 million that started the rice business came from drug money, but they have yet to produce evidence to support their allegations.

"So we spent close to $20,000 to get together 1,300 documents to show them the origin of the money," Ostreicher told Nightline. "We provided that to the judge. And the judge gave me my freedom."

But six days later, the judge reversed his decision and Ostreicher was sent back to prison. The judge was later promoted to the appellate court, further delaying proceedings.

Today, Ostreicher is in a hospital after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, but remains in Bolivian police custody. Bolivian authorities said that Bolivian law allows for the incarceration of people without charge for up to 18 months.

He has been in prison for 545 days and at his most recent hearing, on Aug. 30, a judge denied his request to be released on bail, according to his website.

Miriam Ungar visits her husband frequently in prison and said leaving him to return home is "torture." The Ostreichers have five children and 11 grandchildren, and she said the little ones don't understand what happened to their grandfather.

On the wall in the dining area near his cell, Ostreicher's fellow prisoners painted an American flag for him. It is an emotional talisman for him -- a slender, essential lifeline home.

"It means everything to me," he said. "This is what I got, is my flag. I will never look at the American flag the same way again.... Basically I'm hoping, one day, I will see this flag in my country."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep102012

Why Did the Obama Admin. Deny Bolivia‚Äôs Extradition Request?

AIZAR RALDES/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- On Friday, the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, announced that the U.S. government was refusing to extradite former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who is facing formal charges of genocide.

“A document arrived from the United States, rejecting the extradition of people who have done a lot of damage to Bolivia,” announced Morales, who called the U.S. a “refuge for criminals.”

The controversy dates back to October 2003 when Sanchez de Lozada sent his military forces to quell protests against his government, resulting in the deaths of 67 men, women, and children, mostly from the impoverished indigenous Aymara community. Sanchez de Lozada eventually fled his country and sought refuge in the U.S. In 2007, Bolivian prosecutors brought charges against him.

The move has prompted some harsh criticism from critics of U.S. policy. Writing in the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald calls this “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. That a government that defies US dictates is thwarted and angered in the process is just an added bonus. That, too, is par for the course.”

So why wouldn’t the U.S. cooperate with this request?

On Friday, U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell was asked about this, and he said “we reiterate our expressions of sympathy to the victims and their families who lost their lives or were injured in the civil unrest surrounding the protests of October 2003.  But as a matter of longstanding policy, we don’t comment on specific extradition requests, so I simply can’t get into that.”

Trying to shed some light on what’s going on behind the Obama administration denial of the request, ABC News granted anonymity to a source familiar with the matter to give some perspective. The source said there were serious technical problems with the Bolivian extradition request.

“The former president is accused of genocide for ordering security forces to suppress some violent demonstrations where people were killed,” the source recalled. “For extradition requests to be successful, there are two standards that must be met. One, the accused crime has to be a crime in both jurisdictions, and two, there has to be a reasonable belief that the individual committed the crime.”

The Bolivian request failed to meet both of these requirements, the source said.

As a technical matter, the U.S. criminal code doesn’t have the crime of “genocide,” so an extradition request would need to accuse Sanchez de Lozada of murder or conspiracy to commit murder or some similar charge.

Moreover, the source said, “the accusation is of genocide but there was no proof presented” in the extradition request that Sanchez de Lozada knowingly ordered the killing of these individuals. Clearly the military forces were acting on his orders to suppress the demonstrations, but so far the U.S. has yet to see any evidence that Sanchez de Lozada ordered anyone killed.

“The was virtually no evidence presented in the petition,” the source said, adding that the Bolivian government by reputation often sends “very defective requests” to the U.S. government, and suggesting that this may have been more of an attempt by the Bolivian president to get on his “anti-American soapbox” than anything else.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







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