Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR)

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Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR)

Founded in 1941 by Víctor Paz Estenssoro, Hernán Siles Zuazo, Walter Guevara Arze, and Augusto Céspedes, among others, the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, MNR) was until the early twenty-first century Bolivia's most important political party. Originally populist, it launched the 1952 revolution, pushed through universal suffrage and land reform, and nationalized Bolivia's mining industry. It was the governing party until 1964, when General René Barrientos Ortuño led a successful coup d'état. By this time Guevara, Paz, and Siles had formally split; the party continued to splinter through the 1970s, when there were at least thirty factions. It saw a substantial realignment in the 1980s as a number of factions joined Paz's Historic MNR (MNR-H). By the mid-1980s the MNR-H had dropped the H and reclaimed the MNR. Hernán Siles Zuazo led the most significant alternative faction, the MNR de Izquierda ("of the Left"; MNRI), from 1971 until the 1980s, when it gradually disappeared.

The MNR returned to power with the elections of 1985, when Paz took the presidency once again. It formed a governing coalition (the "pact for democracy") with the Nationalist Democratic Action (Acción Democrática Nacionalista, ADN) party, a move that many credit for helping consolidate Bolivia's nascent democracy. The MNR also launched the New Economic Policy, which began to dismantle the statist economic system that the MNR itself had initiated in the 1950s. In 1989 the party nominated Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, the principal architect of the economic reforms, but lost the contest in the congressional runoff vote, despite winning the most votes in the first round. It was successful in 1993, however, again running Sánchez de Lozada. Significant reforms during his tenure, including an unusual form of privatization and an extensive decentralization program, did not stem the gradually declining support for the MNR. By the late 1990s many voters had grown weary of the dominant political class, including the MNR, and sought alternatives. Nevertheless, the MNR narrowly took the presidency again in 2002, with only 22.5 percent of the popular vote. Again its president, Sánchez de Lozada faced a series of social crises that led to his resignation in 2003. The MNR, along with other traditional parties, has continued to lose support since then, earning only 6.5 percent of the vote in the 2005 general elections and 3.4 percent in the 2006 constituent assembly contest.

See alsoGuevara Arze, Walter; Paz Estenssoro, Víctor; Sánchez de Lozada Bustamante, Gonzalo; Siles Zuazo, Hernán.


Dunkerley, James. Rebellion in the Veins: Political Struggle in Bolivia, 1952–1982. London: Verso, 1984.

Grindle, Merilee S., and Pilar Domingo, eds. Proclaiming Revolution: Bolivia in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge, MA: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, 2003.

Mayorga, René Antonio. "La crisis del sistema de partidos políticos en Bolivia: Causas y consecuencias." Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies 30, no. 59 (2005): 55-92.

                                       Robert R. Barr

                                   Eduardo A. Gamarra