Sánchez de Lozada Bustamante, Gonzalo (1930–)

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Sánchez de Lozada Bustamante, Gonzalo (1930–)

Twice elected president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada engineered Bolivia's modern economic reforms but resigned his office when faced with intransigent public opposition in 2003. Nicknamed "Goni," he was born in La Paz but raised and educated in the United States. After receiving a degree from the University of Chicago, he returned to Bolivia and started several enterprises during his business career. Most successful among them was COMSUR, a mining company that made him a millionaire. He began his political career during Bolivia's tortured transition to democracy, running for the lower house in 1979 with Victor Paz Estenssoro's Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) party. Political instability prevented the members from taking their seats until 1982, but thereafter Sánchez de Lozada established himself as an outspoken opposition leader. In 1985 he was elected senator, chosen to be chamber president, and then named minister of planning and coordination in the Paz government. He was one of the architects of Paz's neoliberal New Economic Policy, including decree 21060, the "shock therapy" program of economic stabilization. Despite the controversial change in the MNR's historic economic platform, the program ended Bolivia's hyperinflation, and Sánchez de Lozada was rewarded with the MNR's nomination for president in 1989. Although he edged out a plurality in the first round, an agreement between two opposing parties gave the second-round vote in congress to Jaime Paz Zamora. Sánchez de Lozada became leader of the MNR in 1990 and ran again as its candidate in 1993, this time winning a third of the popular vote and the second-round vote in congress. His administration's centerpiece was the "Plan for Everyone," which implemented a form of privatization that gave citizens shares in newly private enterprises ("capitalization") and an extensive decentralization program that included citizen oversight mechanisms ("popular participation"). Constitutionally limited to nonconsecutive terms, he could not compete in 1997 but did so in 2002, campaigning with television journalist and political independent Carlos Diego Mesa Gisbert. The vote was extremely close, with Sánchez de Lozada beating by less than 2 percent radical coca growers' leader Evo Morales, who in turn barely edged out populist Manfred Reyes Villa. Although the former presidentwon the second round, the rising popularity of Morales represented a problem for Sánchez de Lozada. By this point, public opinion had turned against the neoliberal economic model that he helped implement. Facing pressure from Washington, moreover, he pledged to continue his predecessors' coca eradication programs, thus earning him the animosity of Morales's followers. Furthermore, proposals to allow foreign corporations to exploit Bolivia's enormous natural gas reserves and export it through Chile sparked widespread protests in September and October of 2003. These culminated in clashes with security forces that left scores dead. As a result, he lost the support of his vice president and his coalition fell apart. Severely weakened, Sánchez de Lozada resigned on October 17, 2003, and went to live in the United States. He faces numerous indictments in Bolivia issued by the Morales government.

See alsoBolivia, Political Parties: Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR); Morales, Evo; Paz Zamora, Jaime; Reyes Villa, Manfred.


Barr, Robert R. "Bolivia: Another Uncompleted Revolution?" Latin American Politics and Society 47, no. 3 (2005): 69-90.

Gray-Molina, George, Ernesto Pérez de Rada, and Ernest Yañez. La economía política de reformas institucionales en Bolivia. Working Paper R-350. Washington, DC: Inter-American Development Bank, 1999.

Grindle, Merilee S. "Shadowing the Past? Policy Reform in Bolivia, 1985–2002." In Proclaiming Revolution: Bolivia in Comparative Perspective, edited by Merliee S. Grindle and Pilar Domingo. Cambridge, MA: David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, 2003.

                                        Robert R. Barr

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Sánchez de Lozada Bustamante, Gonzalo (1930–)

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Sánchez de Lozada Bustamante, Gonzalo (1930–)