Banzer Suárez, Hugo

Banzer Suárez, Hugo
   Army general, right-wing military dictator (1971–1978), and democratically elected president (1997–2001) in Bolivia. He was one of the few Latin American dictators to be later elected president. According to one expert on Bolivia, he was the only Latin American general to be elected president after taking part in a “dirty war.”
   Banzer Suárez was born on 10 May 1926 in Concepción, the capital of the eastern province of Santa Cruz, the most prosperous region in Bolivia. He was of German descent and grew up in a family of ranchers and landowners—the country’s ruling elite. The son of an officer, at age 14 he entered the Colegio Militar del Ejército, the national military academy, where he excelled, graduating in the late 1940s as a cavalry lieutenant. In 1955 he was sent to the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas in the Panama Canal Zone (also known as the “school for coups”), where military personnel from Bolivia and other Latin American countries received tactical training, especially in counterinsurgency. After additional training in 1960 at the Armored Cavalry School in Fort Hood, Texas, Banzer Suárez, then a colonel, was put in charge of the Bolivian Fourth Cavalry Regiment. He visited the United States, developing a fluency in English and forming ties with U.S. military officers.
   Banzer Suárez served in the administration of General René Barrientos Ortuño, first as the minister of education (1964–1967) and then as the military attaché in the Bolivian embassy in Washington, D.C. (1967–1969). After Barrientos Ortuño died in a helicopter crash in April 1969, military officers from across the political spectrum struggled for power. The vice president, Luis Siles Salinas, a civilian, succeeded to the presidency but was ousted on 26 September 1969 by General Alfredo Ovando Candia, the commander in chief of the army and a left-wing nationalist. Banzer Suárez was recalled from Washington and appointed the director of the Colegio Militar del Ejército. On 6 October 1969 Banzer Suárez helped topple Ovando Candia in a right-wing military coup led by the army chief of staff, General Rogelio Miranda. The next day, however, a military countercoup toppled Miranda and installed the left-wing General Juan José Torres González as president.
   On 4 January 1971 Banzer Suárez, having supported the losing side, was relieved of his position at the Colegio Militar and assigned to an isolated military post. Within a week, at odds with Torres González’s leftist agenda, he launched a coup, taking control of the army’s headquarters in La Paz. Although Torres González quashed the attempt and sent Banzer Suárez into exile in Argentina, Banzer Suárez, backed by Bolivia’s neighbors and the United States, continued to plot, secretly entering Bolivia to meet with supporters— military officers, businessmen, and political-party leaders. He made a second attempt on 18 August 1971. His arrest in Santa Cruz alerted his followers that the coup was under way. They secured Santa Cruz, and military installations in most of the other provinces followed suit. His supporters, however, met stiff resistance in La Paz from the Presidential Guard Battalion, students, and trade unionists. After four days of fighting, 120 people were dead and 700 wounded. By 22 August Torres González was defeated. Torres González went into exile in Peru, and Banzer Suárez became president.
   Banzer Suárez’s eight-year military dictatorship—known as the banzerato—is often likened to the rule of General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte in Chile. Both regimes began in the early 1970s and were characterized by censorship, anticommunism, free-market capitalism, and repression. Although the level of repression under Banzer Suárez never reached that of Chile or Argentina—not as many people in Bolivia were politically active—his regime collaborated with other South American military dictatorships in Operation Condor, a top-secret network that eliminated political opponents living in exile. One of Condor’s victims was Torres González, murdered in Argentina in 1976.
   Unlike Pinochet Ugarte, Banzer Suárez managed to polish his image and win the presidency in a democratic election. In 1979 he founded a right-wing political party, the Acción Democrática Nacionalista (ADN, National Democratic Action), and then ran for president six times. In 1985 he captured the most votes (about 29 percent), but less than a majority, so Congress decided the election, which handed victory to Víctor Paz Estenssoro. After losing again in 1993, he retired from politics, grieving over the death of his two sons in separate accidents. Coaxed out of retirement, he ran for the last time in 1997, again capturing most of the votes. This time, Congress elected him president.
   His past, however, came back to haunt him. In October 1998 Pinochet Ugarte was arrested in London at the request of the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, who wanted him extradited to Spain to face charges in connection with the recently discovered Operation Condor. A month later, a Bolivian commission, appointed by the Chamber of Deputies, began investigating connections between Condor and Banzer Suárez. It found evidence but, under government pressure, never turned it over to Judge Garzón. Banzer Suárez, therefore, never faced charges. He resigned from the presidency in August 2001 after being diagnosed with lung cancer. On 5 May 2002 he died at his home in Santa Cruz, from a heart attack.

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

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  • Bánzer Suárez, Hugo — born July 10, 1926, Santa Cruz, Bol. died May 5, 2002, Santa Cruz Soldier and president of Bolivia (1971–78, 1997–2001). After an education in Bolivian and U.S. Army training schools, Bánzer served in various government posts. He became president …   Universalium

  • Banzer Suárez — Banzer Suárez, Hugo …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Banzer Suárez, Hugo — ► (1922 2002) Político y militar boliviano. Fue presidente de la República en 1971 78, fecha en que fue derrocado por un golpe de Estado dirigido por el general Juan Pereda. Fue presidente de nuevo entre 1997 y 2001. * * * (10 jul. 1926, Santa… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Hugo Banzer Suarez — Hugo Banzer Suárez auf einer paraguayischen Briefmarke Hugo Banzer Suárez (* 10. Mai 1926 in Concepción, Bolivien; † 5. Mai 2002 in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivien) war ein bolivianischer Politiker, Soldat, dikt …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Hugo Banzer Suarez — Hugo Banzer Suárez Hugo Banzer Suárez Présidence Premier mandat début  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Hugo Banzer Suárez — Este artículo o sección necesita referencias que aparezcan en una publicación acreditada, como revistas especializadas, monografías, prensa diaria o páginas de Internet fidedignas. Puedes añadirlas así o avisar …   Wikipedia Español

  • Hugo Banzer Suárez — auf einer paraguayischen Briefmarke Hugo Banzer Suárez (* 10. Mai 1926 in Concepción, Bolivien; † 5. Mai 2002 in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivien) war ein bolivianischer Politiker, Soldat, Diktator Boliviens von 197 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Hugo Banzer Suárez — Présidence Premier mandat début  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bánzer Suárez —   [ban sɛr suarɛs], Hugo, bolivianischer General und Politiker, * Santa Cruz 10. 7. 1926, ✝ ebd. 5. 5. 2002; seit 1964 politisch tätig, übernahm 1971 nach einem Putsch gegen General J. J. Torres Gonzáles das Präsidentenamt, das er diktatorisch… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Hugo Banzer Suárez — Gral. Carlos Hugo Banzer Suárez (1921 2002) fue un militar y político Boliviano, presidente de la República (1971 1978; 1997 2001). Nacido el 10 de mayo de 1926 en el pueblo de Concepción, provincia de Ñuflo de Chávez, departamento de Santa Cruz …   Enciclopedia Universal

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