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José María Linares Lizarazu (July 10, 1808 – ?) was born in Tical, Potosí, on a farm. Belonging to the noble and wealthy family of the Counts of Lords and House of Rodrigo in Navarre, Linares was related to the Spanish nobility. He was educated at the Royal and Pontifical University of Chuquisaca.

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Political career

Early in his life, Linares gravitated toward the world of politics, earning a number of administrative appointments in various governments. In 1839 he was called by the new president, General Velasco, to take charge of the portfolio of the Interior. After this Linares was appointed Minister to Spain, where he negotiated the treaty that recognized Bolivia's independence. Serving as president of the Senate, in 1848 he was briefly called (in Velasco's temporary absence) to take provisional charge of the executive. Soon thereafter, he became leader of the so-called Partido Generador (Generator Party), which advocated democracy, civilian control of politics, and a return of the Bolivian military to its barracks. This earned Linares the mistrust of most governments of the time (which were de facto), and a few stints in exile. Nevertheless, he became the country's most important civilian and constitutionalist leader, with a growing following.

President of Bolivia

In 1857, Linares came to power at the head of a pro-civilian military coup d'état, a novelty in the country. Indeed, save for a couple of brief and minor exceptions, he can be said to be the first civilian president of Bolivia. Having toppled General Jorge Córdova (Belzu's son in law), Linares legitimized his rule via the ballot box, when he was elected constitutional president by a large majority. Originally, his administration was one of the most energetic and honest that the country had seen. He introduced many reforms, and vigorously attacked the abuses that had crept into the public administration. Along the way, of course, he made many enemies, who in turn conspired against him. Rebellions and uprisings became the order of the day.

Dictator for Life

Unable to remain in power by other means, in 1858 Linares did the unthinkable: he proclaimed himself "Dictator for Life", ruling by decree and by the force of arms—paradoxically, in order to restore order and eliminate all coups in the future. It was a contradiction of everything he had always purported to stand for, and predictably he became quite unpopular. In 1861, he was overthrown as a result of a coup sponsored by his own Minister of War, José María de Achá. Linares was then banished to Chile, where he died that same year, 1861.

References

Preceded by
Jorge Córdova
President of Bolivia
Provisional

1857–1861
Succeeded by
José María de Achá
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