Banzer Suárez, Hugo (1926–2002)

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Banzer Suárez, Hugo (1926–2002)

Bolivia's military dictator from 1971 to 1978, Hugo Banzer became an important actor in the country's democratic transition and its elected president in 1997. Born May 10, 1926, in Concepción, he studied at military schools in Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil, and the United States, including its School of the Americas in Panama. His military career brought him to politics after General René Barrientos Ortuño's coup in 1964, when he became minister of education. Following subsequent government posts he emerged as the leader of a conservative faction of the military that twice attempted to overthrow General Juan José Torres González. The second attempt, on August 21, 1971, succeeded, and Banzer became president. Initially governing with a civilian coalition, he banned all political parties in 1974 and increasingly relied on repressive tactics. Although he survived numerous coup attempts, he was forced from office in 1978. In March 1979 he founded the Acción Democrática Nacionalista (ADN) and competed in the annulled presidential contests of 1979 and 1980. Banzer received the most popular votes in the 1985 presidential election but lost to the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) in the second round when congress made the final selection among the candidates. Nevertheless, Banzer formed a governing pact with the MNR that helped stabilize Bolivia's democracy after the tumultuous period that began in 1979. Banzer ran again in 1989, 1993, and 1997, when he took the presidency once again. He pursued an aggressive coca eradication policy until cancer forced him to resign on August 6, 2001, and transfer power to Vice President Jorge Quiroga Ramírez. Banzer died on May 5, 2002.

See alsoBolivia, Political Parties: Nationalist Democratic Action (ADN); Military Dictatorships: Since 1945.


Malloy, James M., and Eduardo Gamarra. Revolution and Reaction: Bolivia 1964–1985. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1987.

                                       Robert R. Barr