The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Néstor Paz Zamora, Rachel Nolan, 2018. "The Gospel of a Guerrilla", The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Sinclair Thomson, Rossana Barragán, Xavier Albó, Seemin Qayum, Mark Goodale
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Néstor Paz Zamora was representative of the restless sectors of the urban middle class that founded or joined leftist parties and the armed struggle. His brother, Jaime Paz Zamora, would found the Revolutionary Left Movement (mir) and later go on to become president in 1989. A former seminarian, Néstor had first established ties with the National Liberation Army (eln), in the late 1960s, and then enlisted in the guerrilla movement of Teoponte, in 1970, taking the nom de guerre “Francisco,” after the radical mendicant from Assisi who had rejected all worldly and ecclesiastical comforts. The Teoponte experience was for a long time seen as an isolated local effort by idealistic university students of the middle class, especially radical Catholic youth, naïvely seeking to imitate the heroism of Che. But recent research has found that the Christian segment was not predominant, that the movement emerged out of the earlier eln experiment, and that initially at least it had connections with the Cuban government as well as revolutionary forces in Chile and Argentina. Nonetheless, the military regime of General Alfredo Ovando (third term, 1969–70) easily put down the uprising. Néstor died of starvation in the jungle, intentionally refusing to engage in disputes with other comrades over their scarce resources. Below are two texts dated 17 July 1970, the day he set off on the final campaign. One is a public manifesto, addressed to the country as a whole, launching the Teoponte guerrilla movement; the other is a farewell letter to his parents. They show him ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, both for his revolutionary political convictions and his Christian faith.