The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Cold War Strongman
General René Barrientos Ortuño, Alison Spedding, 2018. "Cold War Strongman", The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Sinclair Thomson, Rossana Barragán, Xavier Albó, Seemin Qayum, Mark Goodale
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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 the reactionary nature of the regime, Barrientos framed his project as the continuation of the national revolution and identified with celebrated earlier military leaders, especially Coronel Germán Busch (1903–39) and Major Gualberto Villarroel (1908–46), who had allied with popular forces and introduced significant legislative reforms. His denunciation of “demagoguery,” implicitly targeting Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (mnr) politicians and the left, rationalized the attack on democratic institutions and expression.
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