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Hilarión Daza

Hilarión Daza Groselle (January 14, 1840 – February 27, 1894) was President of Bolivia from 1876 to 1879.

A career military officer and native of Sucre, Daza came to power on May 4, 1876 in a coup against the constitutional president Tomás Frías. He was supported by much of the country's financial elite because of his avowal to maintain order and stability. To a large extent, Daza entered the Palacio Quemado with a desire to create Bolivian control over the remote, sparsely-populated maritime province of Litoral. By the late 1870s, the latter was already settled mostly by Chileans, who found access to the region much easier than did the highland Bolivians. Predictable, a corollary of this growing physical and economic Chilean presence in the region was its irrendentist claim by Santiago, especially when rich deposits of guano were discovered near the Bolivian port of Mejillones.

To make matters worse, Daza was facing an ongoing recession and the effects of the most severe drought in Bolivian history up to that point. Daza hoped to gather the support of nationalist Bolivians to strengthen his internal position from insurrections, a massive demonstration by artisans in Sucre, and widespread opposition.[1] For these reasons, he rescinded the treaty (quite favorable to Chile) that had been signed in 1874 by President Frías freeing from Bolivian taxation all Chilean citizens living and working in the now disputed Litoral region. Chile threatened war, and Daza immediately invoked an existing self-defense pact/alliance with Peru. In February and March 1879, Chilean troops invaded and occupied the Litoral, sparking the War of the Pacific.

Following the Chilean occupation of the Peruvian port of Pisagua, the combined forces of Peru and Bolivia where supposed to surround Chilean forces in an ambitious pincer manoeuvre. However, the Bolivian army never took part in the subsequent battle of San Francisco for the latter retreated before the combat began. At that point, Bolivian troops headed off for the heights of the Andes, ostensibly to defend the core of the country (the Altiplano) on terrain much better known by Bolivian fighting men, and better suited to them. If this was indeed the goal, it was never met, for the Camarones withdrawal only led to the outright annexation of the now-uncontested Litoral province by Chile, and to the abandonment of Peru to fight the rest of the war alone against an enemy that eventually came to occupy its capital of Lima. The Camarones debacle led to the unseating of Daza on December 28, 1879, when a Council of State was convened. The latter would name Narciso Campero Constitutional President on January 19, 1880. As for Daza, he remained briefly in Peru and then went into exile in France with a sizable portion of Bolivia's treasury.[2]

A controversial figure to say the least, Daza was blamed for the Bolivia's defeat. In 1894, the ex-president decided to return to Bolivia and explain himself, confident that he would be absolved of any wrongdoing, whether illegal act of incompetency. He appeared to hint that Bolivian silver mining elites tied to Chilean capitalist interests had influenced his administration to produce the abandonment of Peru at Camarones and thereafter. Most of these elites were associated with the Conservative Party of Bolivia, which had been in power since soon after Daza's ouster. Daza was murdered in the train station of Uyuni soon after entering Bolivian soil on February 27, 1894. The people of Bolivia placed responsibility for this crime squarely on the government of President Mariano Baptista, but nothing was ever proven.

References

  • Mesa José de; Gisbert, Teresa; and Carlos D. Mesa, "Historia De Bolivia", 3rd edition.
Preceded by
Tomás Frías
President of Bolivia
1876-1879
Succeeded by
Narciso Campero
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