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The national revolutionary cycle that commenced in 1952 came to a close with the U.S.-backed military coup of General René Barrientos Ortuño in November 1964. Barrientos combined personal charisma and patronage tactics to establish the so-called Military-Peasant Pact, which isolated the trade-union movement. His government initiated a new cycle of de facto authoritarian and anticommunist regimes that would last until the restoration of democracy in 1982.

Barrientos composed “Meditation for Bolivians,” which follows, in early 1967, several months before the government’s massacre of mineworkers who had been celebrating the nighttime vigil of San Juan to mark the winter solstice. Despite...

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