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The authoritarian regimes of General Hugo Banzer Suárez and General Luis García Meza stood out not only for their harsh repression of political dissent, but also for their increasingly extensive involvement in illicit cocaine traffcking. The courageous journalism of René Bascopé Aspiazu (1951–84) exposed the networks of complicity involving the military, government offcials, and drug cartels. Bascopé, also an evocative short-story writer and novelist, had worked with Luis Espinal at the radical weekly Aquí, and after Espinal’s assassination, during the García Meza regime, he succeeded him as director of the paper.

The following passage from Bascopé’s investigation in 1982 focuses on the narco-coronel Luis Arce Gómez and his sinister fascist circle. Arce Gómez was the strongman of the García Meza dictatorship, which was the most violent regime of the twentieth century, despite its short duration. He was extradited to the United States, in 1989, in order to serve a prison sentence for drug traffcking. He was then deported back to Bolivia, in 2009, to serve out a sentence for genocide and human-rights violations in the same prison as his former boss, García Meza. Both their sentences resulted from a landmark prosecution case brought by the human-rights lawyer Juan del Granado. The decision, in 1993, was the first time any Latin American dictator had been condemned in the courts. By striking contrast, Hugo Banzer Suárez rehabilitated himself as a civilian politician and, on his third try, became constitutional president from 1997 to 2001.

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