Imagine that you are a human rights lawyer who would like to establish the legal principle of "universal jurisdiction" -- the notion that former leaders should be vulnerable to suit anywhere on earth. You gaze around the globe and notice Buddhist monks being mowed down in Myanmar; women stoned to death for supposed adultery in Iran; rape victims murdered by their families in Pakistan for the sake of "honor"; torture, rape and killing of hundreds of thousands in Darfur. Any of those get your juices flowing?
Not if you are a standard issue, liberal human rights type at the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School or the Center for Constitutional Rights in Manhattan. No, they've teamed up to sue 77-year-old Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, former president of Bolivia, who now lives in the United States. Lozada, a free market reformer and staunch ally of the U.S., is accused of complicity in the death of 67 people in La Paz in 2003.
The idea that former leaders should be prosecuted is misguided in the extreme. How then can you coax a despot from power? But even leaving that aside, the accusation against Lozada is far-fetched. Opposition groups under the leadership of Evo Morales (now president of Bolivia) had blockaded the capital city of La Paz preventing supplies of food and fuel from entering. Lozada called out the army to break the blockade. Some of the blockaders were armed. Dozens of people were killed. This is the basis for a formal charge of "genocide" by the Morales government against the former president as well as the human rights lawsuit by our self-righteous friends in pinstripes.
It seems that for a certain kind of liberal, the only savory enemy is a friend of the United States.
Meanwhile, now that Bolivia has tumbled into the embrace of Castro acolyte Evo Morales, who memorably promised to become "America's worst nightmare" before his election, the country is on the brink of civil war. Just last week, according to Reuters, 7,000 protesters shut down the nation's airport. Morales has been lauded in the American press as the first "indigenous" leader of Latin America's poorest country. (His ancestry is Indian.) Less touted is his career as a coca (as in cocaine) grower, leader of the coca growers union and head of the Movement to Socialism party.
The previous president had cooperated with the United States in attempting to shift farmers from coca to other crops. Morales has halted that program. Coca production has increased. He has also nationalized a number of industries, including the energy sector, and appropriated a Swiss tin smelter. No compensation to the Swiss or others should be expected, Morales announced at the time. The results are unsurprising. As Investor's Business Daily noted, "A gas-rich country now suffers from gas shortages." (Recall the old joke: What happens 10 years after the communists capture the Sahara? A sand shortage.)
If we are judged by the company we keep, Morales is flunking. His closest ally is Hugo Chavez of Venezuela (in fact, while we're talking about allegations, some have suggested that it was illegal contributions from Chavez that financed the blockade of La Paz of 2003 and helped bring Morales to power). Morales's other dear friend is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who visited Bolivia in September after speaking at the United Nations. "An imperial spokesman tried to disrespect you, calling you a cruel little tyrant," Morales noted in his introduction, "You responded with the greatness of a revolutionary." Ahmadinejad returned the compliment by handing Morales a check for $1 billion.
While Harvard law professors and Manhattan liberals sue Morales's political foe in federal court, Morales is cementing relations with Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela, Cuba and Iran while further impoverishing his people (with the exception of the drug growers). The Comedy Channel's Jon Stewart missed that memo. He recently hosted the Bolivian leader and credulously presented him to the audience as someone who would "nationalize resources and help distribute some of the money to the poorer folk in Bolivia . . . to institute agrarian reform -- and you did this within eight months of your election!" Cue the applause. And there was plenty.
Large swaths of Latin America are once again allying themselves with America's enemies. Ahmadinejad has been to the region three times in the past 24 months. Yet the great minds of Harvard, Hollywood and New York tamely offer platforms to the likes of Morales and issue fatwas against pro-American deposed leaders. What's wrong with this picture?