Villarroel López, Gualberto (1908–1946)

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Villarroel López, Gualberto (1908–1946)

Gualberto Villarroel López (b. 1908; d. 21 July 1946), president of Bolivia (1943–1946). Villarroel was a virtually unknown military officer when he came to power in a coup against the administration of General Enrique Peñaranda. An instructor in the reformist military college and a key figure in the secret nationalist military lodge Razón de Patria (the Nation's Right, known as RADEPA), Villarroel allied himself with the leftist-fascist Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario—MNR) during the coup.

Under his government, largely dependent upon the MNR for popular support, important mine labor legislation was passed. In 1945 the government organized the First National Indian Congress, during which a thousand Indian leaders met. As a result, pongueaje, or free-labor services to the hacienda owners, was abolished, and other reforms were advanced, though the legislation was never enacted.

Despite its attempt at reform, the Villarroel regime brutally suppressed the opposition, executing various opposition leaders after a failed coup in 1944. Villarroel himself went to his death in 1946, when a teacher's strike turned violent. A mob stormed the presidential palace and hanged the president from a lamppost in the adjoining plaza.

The Villarroel regime is noted for its attempts at social reform and for the participation of the MNR, which in 1952 would lead Latin America's second social revolution.

See alsoBolivia, Political Parties: Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) .


Augusto Céspedes, El presidente colgado (Historia boliviana) (1966).

Herbert S. Klein, Parties and Political Change in Bolivia, 1880–1952 (1969), pp. 369-382.

Luis Peñaloza C., Historia del Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, 1941–1952 (1963), pp. 55-94.

Additional Bibliography

Bello, Francisco R. Memorias sobre Bolivia: La revolución de Villarroel. Buenos Aires: Repertorio Latinoamericano, 2001.

Guzmán Rojas, Alberto, compiler. Chuspipata, la montaña maldita: el gobierno y la caída de Gualberto Villarroel: los fusilamientos de noviembre de 1944: Los sangrientos sucesos del 13 de junio y 21 de julio de 1946: testimonio documental del juicio de responsabilidades instaurado por el H. Congreso Nacional. Bolivia, 1996.

Murillo Cárdenas, Eliodoro, and Gustavo Larrea Bedregal. Razón de Patria, Villarroel y nacionalismo revolucionario. La Paz: Editorial e Impr. Metodista, 1988.

                                          Erick D. Langer

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Villarroel López, Gualberto (1908–1946)

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