Washington refuses to extradite former Bolivian leader

LA PAZ (Reuters) - The United States has refused to extradite a former president of Bolivia to the South American country to stand trial over political violence and corruption, President Evo Morales said on Friday.

Morales’ leftist government accuses former leader Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada of being responsible for the deaths of 63 killed in clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters in October 2003.

“Yesterday (Thursday), a document arrived from the United States, rejecting the extradition of people who have done a lot of damage to Bolivia,” Morales said in a televised speech.

Sanchez de Lozada, a U.S.-educated mining magnate who embraced free-market policies, quit during the bloodshed of 2003 and fled to the United States 13 months into his second term as president of the impoverished Andean country.

Bolivia’s demands for the extradition of Sanchez de Lozada and several of his ministers have aggravated prickly relations between Washington and La Paz.

The countries agreed to normalize diplomatic relations late last year but new ambassadors have yet to take their posts.

Morales, a former coca farmer and critic of Washington’s policies in Latin America, expelled the U.S. ambassador and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in 2008, accusing them of plotting with his rightist enemies.

Washington responded by sending Bolivia’s ambassador home soon afterward.

Reporting by Carlos Quiroga; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Vicki Allen