The True Story
This website tells the story that has yet to be made into a Hollywood blockbuster. It is the sequel to the movie ‘Our Brand is Crisis’ (www.ourbrandiscrisismovie.com) for it tells the real-life story of what happened as a result of the 2002 elections in Bolivia.
The true story does not end with an ecstatic Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), but rather with a terrible massacre as Bolivia’s real-life president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, ordered troops into the Bolivian city of El Alto to kill protestors before escaping to the U.S. where he remains a fugitive from justice.
Our Brand is Crisis became for hundreds of Bolivian families Our Brand is Deadly.
These families who lost loved ones continue today to deal with the consequences. Sanchez de Lozada, the man responsible for the massacre remains protected by the U.S. government and lives in impunity in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada scraped to power in 2002 with only 22.5% of the popular vote, thanks in part to the efforts of the team of the Democratic party consultants portrayed in the George Clooney-produced film.
A Chicago University alumni, known as ‘El Gringo’ because of his strong English accent in Spanish and U.S. upbringing, his election was enthusiastically welcomed by the Bush administration. Despite the lack of popular mandate, Sanchez de Lozada pushed through a controversial bill in early 2003 to deepen gas privatization and export Bolivia’s gas resources via Chile to California.
Major protests erupted at the decision. Sanchez de Lozada responded with brutal force. On October 11, 2003 he promulgated Supreme Decree 27209, giving the army permission to shoot at will to quell protests. The results were 68 deaths and 400 people injured, including onlookers and children.
Several cabinet members resigned in protest and Sanchez de Lozada’s Vice-President Carlos Mesa condemned the army violence saying, “Neither as a citizen nor as a man of principles can I accept that, faced with popular pressure, the response should be death.”
As popular outrage grew, on October 17, 2003, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and his Defense Minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain fled to the U.S. where they remain today.
“I was in front of the soldiers and they shot me in the back. I say to the government that since they ordered the soldiers, they should help me. I have lots of children, that is what I want.” – Filomena León Mendoza was shot on October 15th and died of a lethal infection on April 30, 2004. This testimony was taken 10 days before she died. She was the mother of 6 children, ages 2 to 12.
In 2004, after a concerted campaign by the victims’ families and human rights groups, two-thirds of Bolivia’s Congress (including many from Sanchez de Lozada’s own party) voted to authorize a “Trial of Responsibility” for the exiled president. Bolivia’s Attorney General clearly attributed blame to Sanchez de Lozada, and in 2008, Bolivia formally served the U.S. government with a request to extradite Sánchez de Lozada back to Bolivia.
The request was rejected by the U.S. State Department in 2012. As a long-term ally of U.S. administrations who opened up Bolivia to U.S. corporations during his three periods in public office, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada has strong support from both Democratic and Republican politicians – and it is believed this has protected him from facing justice.
A second request for extradition was filed by the Bolivian government in July 2014. In 2014, a civil case was filed in the U.S. by the families of the victims, seeking compensatory and punitive damages under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). This case is still pending.