García Meza, Luis

García Meza, Luis
   The “cocaine dictator.” Bolivian general, army commander, and ruler. He came to power in a violent coup on 17 July 1980, bent on removing every trace of suspected leftist subversion. He decreed martial law, imposed censorship, outlawed trade unions, rounded up perceived enemies—between 1,500 and 2,000 by September—and drove 1,500 people into exile. His collaborators included Argentine advisors and paramilitary death squads led by neo-Nazis from Argentina, Chile, France, Germany, and Italy. Modeling himself after General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte in Chile, García Meza was determined to remain in power indefinitely, but his regime, condemned worldwide for human-rights abuse and cocaine trafficking, was ousted in August 1981 by dissident officers. In the end, at least 50 people were dead, more than 20 were desaparecidos (missing), and thousands had been tortured. After the return to democracy in October 1982, victims’ relatives, human-rights organizations, and trade unionists brought a case against García Meza’s “delinquent dictatorship,” and in 1986 he went on trial with Luis Arce Gómez, his former minister of the interior, and 57 others. By then, he and Arce Gómez had gone into hiding. In 1993 he was convicted in absentia for murder, theft, and violating the constitution, and in 1994 he was discovered in Brazil, arrested, and extradited to Bolivia, where the following year he began serving 30 years in prison without parole.

Historical Dictionary of the “Dirty Wars” . . 2010.

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