MIAMI – Bolivia's ex-president said he is struggling with feelings of "shock and shame" after fleeing the country for the United States, and added he fears his ouster could encourage coca growers who opposed him.
Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (search) was interviewed by the Miami Herald on Saturday, one day after he resigned as president of South America's poorest country following days of violent protests.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," the Herald quoted him as saying. "I'm here in Miami trying to recover from the shock and shame."
Bolivians took to the streets this week to protest a plan to export natural gas, but the demonstrations quickly broadened in scope as the labor leaders and Indian groups voiced frustration that the government has failed to improve conditions in South America's poorest country.
Farmers of coca (search), the source of cocaine, also have been furious over the government's U.S.-backed effort to eradicate their crop.
Sanchez de Lozada resigned late Friday after key allies abandoned him and his government collapsed. He was replaced by his vice president, Carlos Mesa (search).
Speaking by telephone from a hotel in Miami, Sanchez de Lozada told the Herald he feared leftist groups and coca growers could form a "narco-labor government that could lead to the disintegration of the country."
He thanked the U.S. government for its support but lamented that it had not given him $150 million in aid that he had requested. He said he had warned President Bush during a trip to Washington that there could be social unrest in Bolivia.
"I told him, 'Forgive me for using this visit to ask you for $150 million, which is the gap we have in our budget because of the instability of the electoral process,'" he said. "I told him I dared to make that request because when I would come back asking for political asylum a year later he would ask me what had happened.
"I'm not going to say that the problems of my government, or those of Bolivia, are the fault of the United States. But they could have done a little more to help us," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
After his stop in Florida, Sanchez de Lozada flew on to Washington Saturday, said Jarmusz Levy, the Bolivian consul-general in Miami.