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Bolivia ex-president vows to return
( 2003-10-21 10:14) (Agencies)

The former president of Bolivia, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, emerged in fighting form on Monday, lashing out at his enemies and vowing to return to Bolivia soon to resume his political career.

Sanchez de Lozada resigned on Friday, pressured by massive protests that left more than 70 dead and 200 injured. He said he fled because he feared his family could be attacked.

Over the weekend he told the Miami Herald newspaper that he was in "shock and shame" over his ouster, but in his first news conference with a small group of journalists in his room at a Washington hotel since he left office, he was resolute.

Asked if he planned to return to Bolivia, Sanchez de Lozada said: "Of course, that's my life, that's where I have all my activities."

He said he planned to continue to lead his party, the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement, saying he would be "very, very active in politics" although he would not run for president again.

"Politics is like a drug, it doesn't treat you well, but you can't stay away from it," he said showing flashes of humor and noting that now he had time to attend grandparents and parents day at the University of Chicago, his alma mater, where his granddaughter studies.

He urged Washington and multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund to help his vice president who replaced him, Carlos Mesa, even though he said Mesa "contributed" to his fall by not supporting him in the final moments of his presidency.

"I am in Washington because I still see very delicate problems for Bolivia, that have not been solved by my resignation. These are problems of national disintegration, of union and corporativist authoritarianism, and of fratricidal violence."


Sanchez de Lozada had repeatedly called on Washington to help his government, but he said he was not bitter.

"I could come here to complain and lament, but the best I can do is help," he said. He did not identify which Bush administration officials he planned to meet, but said he would make the rounds at the World Bank, the IMF and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Protesters declared their opposition to a government-backed natural gas export project, but Sanchez de Lozada, a firm ally of Washington's war on drugs, said these were just "excuses."

"It was just one excuse after the other but basically it was a well orchestrated, well financed effort to get rid of a strong president who wasn't going to cede that easily."

Sanchez de Lozada, a wealthy businessman who was raised in the United States, said that if the Mesa government failed, Bolivia could split in two, with the gas-rich southern Andean provinces "seeking cover from neighbors" and the remainder of the country becoming a pariah state dedicated to coca cultivation.

The former president's strongest critics were union and indigenous groups as well as coca farmers, headed by Evo Morales, a socialist who came in second in last year's presidential elections.

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