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World Briefing / BOLIVIA

Crowds call for justice in riot deaths

June 10, 2008|From Times Wire Reports

Thousands of demonstrators marched on the U.S. Embassy in La Paz to demand that Washington extradite a former Bolivian defense minister who directed a military crackdown that killed at least 60 people amid riots in 2003.

Former Defense Minister Carlos Sanchez Berzain, a resident of Key Biscayne, Fla., told Radio Fides last week that the U.S. granted him political asylum more than a year ago. The revelation sparked outrage in El Alto, a sprawling city outside La Paz where soldiers had gunned down the anti-government rioters.

Protesters shot fireworks at a U.S. flag flying just beyond the compound's concrete wall Monday, as helmeted Marines looked on from the embassy's roof. When crowds tried to push through a police line, officers cleared the street with tear gas.

Edgar Patana, head of a labor union leading the protest, said, "The United States has to prove that they have the justice they're always showing off in their media and movies. Bolivia wants that justice."

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