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Sergio Almaraz Paz (1928–68) began his political activities as a young man in the “Liberty Study Center” run by Angélica Ascui, an important middle-class activist linked to anarchist and feminist causes. He entered the Revolutionary Left Party (pir) and then, in 1950, at the age of twenty-two, cofounded the Bolivian Communist Party and became its first secretary-general. He resigned in 1956 because his antidogmatic, humanist outlook did not square with the party’s intellectual program—René Zavaleta later remarked that Almaraz preferred to read Camus rather than Soviet theorists. Almaraz thereafter adopted a left-nationalist position and developed his style as an uncompromising and lapidary political essayist. After penning key works on the extraction of natural resources (oil and minerals) and the structure of power in Bolivian history, he published Requiem for a Republic (1969). The book portrayed in devastating terms the prerevolutionary ruling economic clique, the old rosca that “felt it owned a country it simultaneously despised.” It criticized the reversal of the national revolution, which unfolded as the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (mnr) capitulated point by point to the pressures of the United States. By the time of the right-wing military coup in November 1964, Almaraz considered the revolution already a cadaver and the new rosca a pale shadow of the old oligarchy and fully subordinate to U.S. interests.

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