LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) -- Bolivia's main opposition party called Friday
for the former dictatorship of President Hugo Banzer to be put on trial for
alleged crimes against humanity.
The government in turn said the opposition National Revolutionary
Movement (MNR) -- former Banzer allies -- were "short of memory."
The manoeuvre against Banzer followed the recent arrest of ex-Chilean
dictator Augusto Pinochet in London at the behest of Spanish judges
accusing him of genocide.
Thousands of people disappeared during the 1973-90 military rule of
82-year-old Pinochet, who was granted conditional bail Friday pending
further legal moves over his extradition to Spain.
Banzer has been consistently described in the local press as the Bolivian
in the 1970s "Condor Plan" in which Latin American dictators coordinated
anti-leftist actions. The president has denied knowledge of such a plan.
Banzer seized power 27 years ago in a bloody coup and held office seven
years until 1978, when he stepped aside for free elections.
He subsequently failed in several attempts to win the presidency at the
box. The 72-year-old former general finally prevailed and took over in
The MNR, which was allied with Banzer's Nationalist Democratic Action
Party (ADN) in the 1980s, is now distancing itself from him and calling for
an investigation into the Bolivian version of the "Condor Plan."
"Bolivia must not enter the next millennium without reaching a national
reconciliation process that closes the wounds opened in that shameful time,"
the MNR said in a statement.
"It is necessary to investigate and go to trial, because only then is pardon
able to be granted," the statement read.
If the MNR does not probe the former Banzer dictatorship someone else
will, the party's leaders maintain, in an apparent reference to attempts by
Spanish investigators to try Pinochet.
"Although we reached a pact and we sealed (the alleged crimes of Banzer)
in our country, according to the new international consensus the men that
commit these crimes will be tried in one place or another," said ex-President
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, the MNR party chief.
"It's better to do it at home," he added. Banzer's ADN, the leading party
Bolivia's ruling coalition, has asked Congress to formally condemn Sanchez
de Lozada for alleged corruption and human rights abuses during his last
administration between 1993 and 1997.
The MNR headed three successive governments between 1952 and 1964,
when prison camps and assassinations were supposedly rife.
"We won't permit those short-memoried people of the MNR to have the
moral authority to come balancing accounts with those who are definitely
constructive and guarantors of democratic stability," said presidential
spokesman Mauro Bertero.
"If clarifying facts is what is called for, let's start with the decade
1950s," Bertero told reporters.
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