Latin America & Caribbean

Bolivia: Senior officials jailed over 2003 protests

Victim's brother Juan Patricio Quispe Mamani
Image caption Victims' families held a vigil outside the court for 58 days

Bolivia's Supreme Court has convicted five top military officers over the killings of at least 64 people during protests in 2003.

Four former generals and an admiral were sentenced to between 10 and 15 years in prison.

Two former ministers were jailed for three years each for complicity in what was described as a "genocide".

The protesters in El Alto had demanded an end to the export of natural gas to the US using Chilean ports.

It is the first time that high-ranking military men have been convicted by a civilian court in Bolivia for human rights abuses, reports the BBC's Mattia Cabitza from the court in the Bolivian city of Sucre.

The former generals, Roberto Claros Flores, Juan Veliz Herrera, Jose Ovaldo Quiroga and Gonzalo Alberto Rocabado, and Adm Luis Alberto Aranda Granados were jailed over what has become known as the "Black October case".

'Landmark' case

Image caption The protests forced the president to resign

More than 400 people were injured as soldiers opened fire during protests in the city of El Alto, near La Paz, the seat of the government, over the export of Bolivian natural gas.

Bolivia's Attorney-General Mario Uribe said justice had been done - and he hoped other former government officials could be tried soon.

Families of the victims cheered outside the court when the verdict was read, after having waited almost eight years in what is being considered a landmark case for Bolivia's human rights record.

The Bolivian government has been seeking the extradition of at least eight former officials - the then President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, and seven former ministers. They are living abroad or have gone into exile in the US, Peru and Spain.

President Sanchez de Lozada left the country before the end of his second term in office after the killings. He has been living in the US ever since.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites