Luis Garcia Meza

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Luis Garcia Meza Tejada.jpg

Luis Garcia Meza Tejada (8 August 1929-29 April 2018) was President of Bolivia from 17 July 1980 to 4 August 1981, succeeding Lidia Gueiler Tejada and preceding Celso Torrelio. Garcia Meza seized power from his cousin in the Cocaine Coup of 1980, and for a year Bolivia was ruled by a brutal military government that killed 1,000 people during its short period of existence.


Luis Garcia Meza Tejada was born on 8 August 1929 in La Paz, Bolivia, and he graduated from the Bolivian Army Military Academy in 1952. From 1963 to 1964, he served as the commander of the military academy, and in the late 1970s he became a division commander, rising to the rank of general during the dictatorship of Hugo Banzer. Garcia Meza led a right-wing section of the army in the "Cocaine Coup" of 17 July 1980 (its nickname came from the fact that many of the generals responsible had ties to Bolivian narcotraffickers) against the civilian government of his cousin Lidia Gueiler Tejada, overthrowing her and establishing a military government. The CIA backed Garcia Meza's coup, and Bolivian cocaine lords such as Roberto Suarez gained power under the Garcia Meza dictatorship.

Garcia Meza outlawed all political parties, exiled dissident leaders, quieted the press, and repressde trade unions, establishing an Augusto Pinochet-style conservative dictatorship. In thirteen months, 1,000 people were killed by the extremely brutal Bolivian government, and the repressive nature of the government in addition to its links to the cocaine trade led to even the United States distancing itself from Garcia Meza. On 4 August 1981, Garcia Meza resigned the presidency, and Celso Torrelio succeeded him as the new military dictator. In 1995, he was extradited to Bolivia from Brazil and sentenced to thirty years in prison for his crimes against humanity, living in a three-room cell in prison with a barbecue, gym, telephone, sauna, and lots of space and having a comfortable life. He died in La Paz on 29 April 2018 of a heart attack at the age of 88.

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