Torres, Juan José (1921–1976)

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Torres, Juan José (1921–1976)

Juan José Torres (b. 1921; d. 1976), army officer and president of Bolivia (1970–1971). Born in Cochabamba, Torres was a career soldier. He stayed in the armed forces even during the 1952–1964 rule of the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) following the Bolivian National Revolution, in spite of the fact that in his youth he had belonged to the Bolivian Socialist Falange (FSB), a fascist-oriented party and bitter enemy of the MNR. Torres was a co-conspirator in the overthrow of MNR leader President Víctor Paz Estenssoro in November 1964, and held important posts in the succeeding military regime. He was in command of the army unit that in 1967 suppressed the guerrilla operation of Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

When General Alfredo Ovando overthrew President Luis Adolfo Siles Salinas in September 1969, General Torres became commander in chief of the armed forces. In that position, he supported the "nationalist" position of Ovando. However, in July 1970 he was forced to resign the post because of pressure from right-wing army leaders. When right-wing officers forced the resignation of President Ovando early in October 1970, General Torres emerged as president, with the support of the leadership of the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), the national labor confederation. Torres presided over a "nationalist" and "leftist" regime. He cancelled the U.S. Steel concession on the Matilda zinc mine and expelled the Peace Corps from Bolivia.

The COB and leftist parties organized the so-called Popular Assembly, which sought to play the role of the 1917 Russian soviets, but it was not granted any official power by Torres. The COB refused several official invitations from Torres to join his administration. In August 1971, Colonel Hugo Banzer Suárez, former head of the Military College, led a conspiracy that ousted Torres, who fled to Argentina, where he was assassinated in 1976.

See alsoBolivia, Organizations: Bolivian Workers Central (COB); Bolivia, Political Parties: Bolivian Socialist Falange (FSB); Ovando Candía, Alfredo.


Guillermo Lora, A History of the Brazilian Labor Movement (1977).

Additional Bibliography

Wagner, Maria Luise. "Reformism in the Bolivian Armed Forces: Juan José Torres, a Case Study." Ph.D. diss., Georgetown University, 1986.

                                Robert J. Alexander

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Torres, Juan José (1921–1976)

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