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Bolivia: Military Intervention in Politics, 1970-85
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Evolution of the Military Role in Society and Government > Military Intervention in Politics, 1970-85


Until 1970 reformist factions in the military had remained small and had gained significant influence only during the Barrientos administration. By 1970 the military's reformist faction, the Generational Group, had about 100 members, most of them young officers. Historian Maria Luise Wagner postulates that the rise of Juan José Torres González to the presidency (1970-71) marked the culmination of a reformist trend in the FF.AA. that had begun in 1936. The trend, however, reemerged in late 1978 when another reformist, David Padilla Arancibia (1978-79), who was favored by junior officers, took power.

According to Klein, under General Hugo Banzer Suárez (1971-78) "the role of the military was seen as one of protection of the upper classes and their middle-class allies, within nondemocratic regimes." Thus, military intervention was regarded as "a long-term alternative to open politics." Although military cooperation with the United States grew considerably and the military budget increased under Banzer's rule, the United States suspended military aid to Bolivia in late 1977 because of the regime's authoritarianism.

During the García Meza regime (1980-81), so many top officers were alleged to be involved in corruption and drug trafficking that both foreign and Bolivian officials called it "the cocaine government." As de facto president, García Meza angered many officers by promoting a number of undistinguished colleagues -- whose only merit appeared to be a record of loyalty to him -- to top army positions. García Meza resigned and left the country in September 1981, and the military finally stepped aside in October 1982 to allow the National Congress (hereafter, Congress) to reconvene and Siles Zuazo to begin serving out his truncated second term as president (October 1982 to August 1985).

Three coup attempts against Siles Zuazo by dissident officers in June and December 1984 and January 1985 were thwarted because the military, increasingly commanded by younger, more professional officers, remained loyal to the government. The military also honored the constitutional transfer of power to Paz Estenssoro in August 1985 for a four-year term in office.

Data as of December 1989

Last Updated: December 1989

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Bolivia was first published in 1989. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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Section 132 of 171


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