CHIJCHIPA, Bolivia – President Evo Morales has turned over land in Bolivia’s La Paz province that was owned by former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada to peasants.
Morales gave nearly 500 hectares (1,234 acres) Saturday to descendants of African slaves who live in the coca-growing region of Yungas.
The National Agrarian Reform Institute, or INRA, expropriated the land from Sanchez de Lozada because it was not performing an “economic and social function.”
“Mission accomplished with the Afro-Bolivian people, with this people that has suffered so much and endured humiliation and exploitation for so many years,” Morales said in an address in this town.
The president said additional land that was not “performing a productive function” would soon be distributed to peasants.
Sanchez Lozada, who served as president from 1993-1997 and 2002-2003, resigned amid unrest on Oct. 17, 2003, and fled to the United States, where he currently resides.
The former president faces genocide charges, which Bolivian law applies in cases of “bloody massacres,” for the deaths of 63 people during attempts to quell an uprising by coca growers, union members and peasants that erupted over his plans to export natural gas to the United States and Mexico via Chilean ports.
Landlocked Bolivia has a longstanding border dispute with Chile stemming from a 19th century war.
In October 2004, Bolivia’s Congress authorized a trial of Sanchez de Lozada, and in September 2007 the Supreme Court ordered the Foreign Ministry to request the former president’s extradition from the United States.
Morales, who took office in 2006, staunchly opposed Sanchez de Lozada’s neoliberal economic policies.
Sanchez de Lozada went on trial in absentia last Monday.