Hugo Banzer.jpg

Hugo Banzer (10 May 1926-5 May 2002) was President of Bolivia from 21 August 1971 to 21 July 1978, succeeding Juan Jose Torres and preceding Juan Pereda, and from 6 August 1997 to 7 August 2001, succeeding Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and succeeding Jorge Quiroga. Banzer initially ruled as a military dictator, but in 1997 he was elected as a constitutional president and served a four-year term in office.

Biography

Hugo Banzer was born on 10 May 1926 in Concepcion, Santa Cruz Department, Bolivia, and he attended the School of the Americas and the Armored Cavalry School in Fort Hood, Texas, United States. Banzer was promoted to colonel in the Bolivian Army in 1961 and became Minister of Education and Culture in 1964 under President Rene Barrientos, his friend and ally, and he sided with the right wing faction of the military. In 1971, he led a bloody coup that took over the La Paz garrisons and ousted the democratic leader Juan Jose Torres from power, beginning a military dictatorship over the country. During his tenure as president, Banzer reopened negotations with Chile in hopes of re-acquiring some land along the Pacific Ocean, but Peru's insistence that a strip of land be governed by all three countries led to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet backing out of negotiations. In 1978, his use of the Bolivian Army for his own purposes led to Juan Pereda leading a coup, and Banzer formed the Nationalist Democratic Action conservative party in 1979. In exchange for President Victor Paz Estenssoro's support in future elections, Banzer led his party in support of Estenssoro's cabinet during his presidency in the 1980s, and in 1997 he was democratically elected as President, the first former dictator to be re-elected as a civilian. He fought drug trafficking and attempted to privatize the water industry, but the Cochabamba Water War of 2000 led to Banzer giving up the project and reaching a settlement with the demonstrators. He resigned from office in 2001 after being diagnosed with lung cancer, and he died in 2002.

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