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Hugo Banzer Suárez

Hugo Banzer Suárez
Hugo Banzer Suárez, born in 1926 in the department of Santa Cruz, served as president of Bolivia from 1971-1978 and later from 1997-2001.

Banzer was trained by the US military in various locations including the School of the America and served as Minister of Education during the military government of General René Barrientos. Banzer conspired in a failed coup attempt against President Juan José Torres’s socialist government in 1971.

However, Banzer tried again in 1971, and with the support of the US, successfully seized the presidency in a coup. He established an anti-communist, authoritarian military dictatorship that lasted almost seven years with rampant corruption and human rights violations related to Operation Condor.

Banzer became president again through constitutional elections in 1997, bringing with him Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga as vice-president. During his second presidential term, Banzer tried to eradicate coca production in Bolivia as part of the US-led War on Drugs.

Most notable of all, Banzer launched the water privatization deal with a subsidiary of the US corporation Bechtel, igniting the “Water War” in Cochabamba. Sustained popular uprising from social forces that would raise Evo Morales into the national consciousness and formed the foundations of the MAS (Movement Toward Socialism) defeated the privatizations and Banzer was forced to abandon the deal even after declaring a “state of siege.”

Following the Water War and his diagnosis of lung cancer, Banzer resigned as president in 2001. He passed the office to his vice-president Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga before dying in 2002.