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Hugo Bánzer Suárez: 1926—: Politician

Ousted From Office

Still, Bánzer's 1971-78 rule ushered in a period of stability for Bolivia. His economic policies stabilized the economy, and the country enjoyed short-term benefits from U.S. foreign aid and high oil prices. But when the economy began to falter, protesters went on hunger strikes, and there were widespread calls for democratic elections. Bánzer complied and held elections in 1978, in which he did not run but instead backed a general. That candidate, Juan Pereda, won, but Bánzer's government declared the election fraudulent, and nullified the vote. In response, Pereda led a coup that ousted Bánzer.

Bánzer served as Bolivia's ambassador to Argentina from 1978 to 1997, but also moved toward the political mainstream soon after his ouster. He formed the National Democratic Action Party of Bolivia (ADN) in 1979, and he ran for election in every presidential contest after a constitutional government was restored in 1982. Though he failed to win, candidates of his ADN party usually took a number of seats in the Bolivian Congress. The party made peace with workers and peasants, and forged coalitions with the other leading political groups, such as Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR). That alliance gave Bánzer and his party control of the country's economic policy for four years between 1989 and 1993.

Later in the 1990s, Bolivia began to enact some free-market reforms under a new president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. This involved selling off parts of large state-run utilities to private investors. Public sentiment was opposed to some of these economic policies, for the reforms seemed to benefit only a small, elite class of Bolivians and foreign investors. The country remained desperately impoverished: two out of three Bolivians still lived below the poverty level, the annual average income was just $800, 20 percent of adults were illiterate, and one child in three in the rural and mountain areas suffered from malnutrition.

Bánzer was elected in 1997—although not by a popular vote. He and the ADN took a thin majority of the votes, besting MNR candidate Juan Carlos Duran, former president Jaime Paz Zamora, and Ivo Kuljis, a millionaire from the agrarian center of Bolivia. Bolivia's constitution specifies that a presidential candidate must win over half the popular vote, or the election will then be decided by Congress. Amidst some worries from international observers about the return of a former dictator, Bánzer was approved by Congress and was sworn in for his five-year term on Bolivia's Independence Day, August 6.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Nate Smith Biography - Fought His Way into the Union to Theodosius II BiographyHugo Bánzer Suárez: 1926—: Politician Biography - Long Military Career, Ousted From Office, A New Era, Resigned Due To Poor Health