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Luis García Meza


In office
17 July 1980 – 4 August 1981
Preceded by Lidia Gueiler
Succeeded by Celso Torrelio

Born August 8, 1932 (1932-08-08) (age 77)
La Paz, Bolivia
Nationality Bolivian

Luis García Meza Tejada (b. August 8, 1932, La Paz, Bolivia) is a former Bolivian dictator. A native of La Paz, he was a career military officer who rose to the rank of general during the reign of dictator Hugo Banzer (1971-78). García Meza became Dictator in 1980.

Contents

Prelude to Dictatorship

García Meza became leader of the right-wing faction of the Military of Bolivia most disenchanted with the return to civilian rule. Many of the officers involved had been part of the Banzer dictatorship and disliked the investigation of economic and human right abuses by the new Bolivian Congress. Moreover, they tended to regard the decline in popularity of the Carter administration in the United States. as an indicator that soon a Republican administration would replace it -- one more amenable to the kind of pro-U.S. anti-Communist dictatorship they wanted to reinstall in Bolivia. Ominously, many allegedly had ties to the cocaine traffickers and made sure portions of the military acted at their enforcers/protectors in exchange for extensive bribes, which in turn were used to fund the upcoming coup. In this manner, the narcotraffickers were in essence purchasing for themselves the upcoming Bolivian government.

Coup d'etat

This group pressured President Lydia Gueiler (his cousin) to install Gen. García Meza as Commander of the Army. Within months, the Junta of Commanders headed by Garcia Meza forced a violent coup d'etat -- sometimes referred to as the Cocaine Coup -- of July 17, 1980. As portions of the citizenry resisted, as they had done in the fail putsch of November 1979, it resulted in dozens of deaths. Allegedly, the Argentinian army unit Batallón de Inteligencia 601 participated in the coup.

The García Meza Dictatorship, 1980-81

Of extremely conservative anti-communist persuasion, García Meza endeavored to bring a Pinochet-style dictatorship that was intended to last 20 years. He immediately outlawed all political parties, exiled opposition leaders, repressed the unions, and muzzled the press. He was backed by former Nazi officer Klaus Barbie and Italian neofascist Stefano Delle Chiaie. Further collaboration came from other European neofascists, most notoriously Ernesto Milá Rodríguez (accused of the Paris synagogue bombing of 1980. [1] Among other foreign collaborators were professional torturers allegedly imported from the notoriously repressive Argentine dictatorship of General Jorge Videla.

The García Meza regime, while brief (its original form ended in 1981), became internationally known for its extreme brutality. The population was repressed in ways as the Banzer dictatorship did. Indeed, some 1,000 people are estimated to have been killed by the Bolivian army and security forces in only 13 months. The administration's chief repressor was the Minister of Interior, Colonel Luis Arce, who cautioned that all Bolivians who may be opposed to the new order should "walk around with their written will under their arms."

The most prominent victim of the dictatorship was the congressman, presidential candidate, and gifted orator Marcelo Quiroga, murdered and "disappeared" soon after the coup. Quiroga had been the chief advocate of bringing to trial the former dictator, General Hugo Banzer (1971-78), for human right violations and economic mismanagement.

Drug trafficking

The García Meza government drug trafficking activities led to the complete isolation of the regime. The new, conservative U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, kept his distance, aware of the regime's unsavory links to criminal circles. Eventually, the international outcry was sufficiently strong to force García Meza's resignation on August 3, 1981. He was succeeded by a less tainted but equally repressive general, Celso Torrelio.

All in all, the Bolivian military would sustain itself in power only for another year, and would then beat a hasty retreat to its barracks, embarrassed and tarnished by the excesses of the 1980-82 dictatorships (it has never returned to the Palacio Quemado).

Exile and Jail

At that point, García Meza left the country, but was tried and convicted in absentia for the serious human rights violations incurred by his regime. In 1995, he was extradited to Bolivia from Brazil and is still serving a 30 year prison sentence, in the same prison where he once kept his enemies. His main collaborator, the notorious Colonel Arce, was extradited to the United States, where he is currently serving a jail sentence for drug trafficking.

References

  1. ^ Vázquez Montalbán, Manuel (1984). Mis almuerzos con gente inquietante. (see the whole chapter dedicated to Ernesto Milá). Planeta. ISBN 978-84-9793-459-6.  
  • Mesa José de; Gisbert, Teresa; and Carlos D. Mesa, "Historia De Bolivia," 5th edition, pp. 681–689.
  • Prado Salmón, Gral. Gary. "Poder y Fuerzas Armadas, 1949-1982."
Preceded by
Lydia Gueiler
President of Bolivia
1980–1981
Succeeded by
Celso Torrelio







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