Busch Becerra, Germán (1903–1939)

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Busch Becerra, Germán (1903–1939)

Germán Busch Becerra (b. 23 March 1903; d. 23 August 1939), president of Bolivia (July 1937–August 1939). Busch was born in Trinidad, in the eastern department of El Beni. His father was an eccentric German medical doctor, and his mother, Raquel Becerra, was a native of Trinidad. In his early youth Busch joined the army as a cadet. He became noted for his daring, physical fitness, and hot temper—characteristics that served him well in the Chaco War.

After participating in the overthrow of presidents Daniel Salamanca, José Luis Tejada Sorzano, and David Toro, in July 1937 he assumed the presidency in the belief that all three previous presidents had been inept in their handling of the war. On 27 May 1938 Busch was elected constitutional president for the period 1938 to 1942. On 24 April 1939 he declared himself a dictator, proclaiming "military socialism" and undertaking radical reforms that included the nationalization of the Standard Oil holdings. He condemned the German-born tin magnate Mauricio Hochschild to death and nationalized the tin mines. Prevented by his cabinet from executing the sentence, in a fit of rage, Busch committed suicide in front of his aides, saying it "is best to terminate my life" to convince the Bolivian nation of the righteousness of his action. Although the suicide is an accepted historical fact, there has been some talk of assassination. Just before Busch's death a permanent peace treaty with Paraguay went into effect, although hostilities had long since ended. Busch, considered a forerunner of Bolivia's great reforms of the next three decades, has become virtually a legendary figure in Bolivian history.

See alsoChaco War; Germans in Latin America; Military Dictatorships: 1821–1945.


Moïsés Alcázar, Sangre en la historia (1956).

Augusto Céspedes, El dictator suicida (1956).

Porfirio Díaz Machicao, Historia de Bolivia. Vol. 4, Toro, Busch, Quintanilla (1957), pp. 59-119.

Additional Bibliography

Durán S., Juan Carlos. Germán Busch y los orígenes de la revolución nacional: Fragmentos para una biografía. La Paz: Honorable Senado Nacional, 1997.

Farcau, Bruce W. The Chaco War: Bolivia and Paraguay, 1932–1935. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996.

                                  Charles W. Arnade