Recent attempts to capture the essence of Bolivian political history emphasize various aspects of the patron age system and its evolution. Thus Laurence White-head focuses on “sectional interests,” Christopher Mitchell on “factionalism,” and James Malloy on the “corporate” nature of “authoritarian” rule in the political process initiated by the National Revolution of 1952.1 These models share an emphasis on the divisiveness and corruption of a system characterized by a host of competing interest groups, be they presented as factional, sectional, or sectoral, modernizing or traditional, corporatist, rightist, or leftist. This study will concentrate on the patronage system, as it developed in rural Cochabamba Department, and will examine politics within the sindicato (union) movement of the National Revolution. What was the high point of syndical power in the rural sector; who were the power elite in peasant politics; what was their relationship to national development; and how did syndical rivalry and violence ultimately relate to the national political conjuncture, and a peasantry in arms come to surrender its historical potential to a resurgent military? These are some of the questions we will consider in this article.

Dirigente and Sindicato

Before 1952, almost without exception, the Bolivian masses were excluded from political participation. Their inclusion in the revolutionary movement of 1952 represented a new equation in the political process. With three strokes (universal suffrage, agrarian reform, and nationalization of the mines), the National Revolution destroyed traditional society; a white, patriarchal elite was dispossessed of power and the legitimacy of the ballot. Power was surrendered only after an armed contest in which civilian insurgents defeated the national army on the field of battle. The military, which has never won a declared war, was dishonored, disarmed, and briefly disbanded. In its place a revolutionary government created a people in arms, as weapons were distributed to sindicato militias—made up of workers, peasants, and urban revolutionary cadres.

The revolutionary potential of the Bolivian peasantry arose after the insurrection of April 1952; on this point all academic observers agree. The prerevolutionary potential of the peasant masses, revealed in periodic rebellions, is understood as episodic. A number of national heroes have led peasant uprisings—Túpac Katari and Bartolina Sisa, “El Temible” Willka—and the hidden history of the highlands would doubtless reveal a similar record at the regional level. The conscious inclusion of peasants in the political arena, however, has been rare.2 In 1952 the revolutionary leadership considered ushering the peasant masses into the insurrectionary contest only as a last resort; a conspiratorial movement, frustrated by a host of failed stratagems, chose to mobilize the peasantry only in the most extreme circumstances. Any consideration of peasant and revolution must thus point to a cultural reality: the eternal fear by the white minority of a rising of the peasant masses.

After the insurrectionary victory of the National Revolutionary forces in April 1952, a growing tremor of peasant outrage against the traditional order shook the Bolivian countryside. Its epicenter was the Ucureña sindicato in the Cochabamba valleys.3 Historically this region, for reasons of colonial administration, demography, and land-tenure arrangements, had been unique and, since the 1930s, increasingly restive. A substantial literature has explored the various factors contributing to the proclivity of the Cochabamba peasantry to revolutionary action.4 The sindicato militia was the vehicle for revolutionary land seizures, after the MNR (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario) insurrection created a power vacuum in the rural sector.

Land is the measure of wealth and the existential focus of peasant life. The Bolivian peasantry served three empires (Tiwanaku, Inca, Spanish) before the creation of the republic. Spanish and republican history made for a process of increasing subordination: the division and destruction of the traditional ayllu communities so graphically demonstrated by McBride.5 Before 1952, despite attempted reforms from Bolívar to Villarroel, the process of despoliation of peasant lands continued, and Bolivia came to exemplify the hacienda system at its most extreme.6

Initially the militarized peasant sindicatos served as the instrument of change in the rural areas. By seizing control of the countryside, they destroyed the landlord class, and the introduction of sindicato organization to some communities altered traditional peasant values. Historically, peasant society in Bolivia, and elsewhere, functioned within a civil-religious system (sometimes called the cargo system) of formal and informal positions ranked according to age, service, and prestige. This highly structured order could not meet all the reform requirements of the sindicatos, and was accordingly altered in favor of a system whereby leaders were selected on the basis of their political capabilities.

The Revolution introduced the new sindicato form of rural government. The dirigente, or leader, of the rural union held the post of executive secretary or secretary of government and lesser officials included secretaries of war, relations, treasury, press and propaganda, charity and social aid, and sports. Local sindicato governments were organized around sindicatos de hacienda, which were grouped into cantonal and provincial centrales and formed the departmental federation. At the national level, delegates to the Confederación Nacional de Trabajadores Campesinos de Bolivia represented the peasantry in the Central Obrera Boliviana.

Thus the agrarian revolution introduced a new and distinctive political style. The dirigente of the peasant sindicato now represented the new position of power and authority in peasant communities, and his status rested upon the ability to manipulate the Spanish-speaking bureaucracy of the National Bevolutionary regime.7 Those dirigentes most successful in wringing patronage (e.g., roads, schools, potable water, electricity, favorable adjudication of boundary disputes) from the Revolution quickly came to associate themselves with the MNR. Those dirigentes who endorsed politics outside the MNR were marginalized; branded as “extremists,” “agitators,” and “communists,” they faded from power in the early years of the Revolution. Simply put, the institutionalization of the Revolution involved the development of a rural bureaucracy of dirigentes faithful to the MNR leadership.

In the meantime, the middle and upper reaches of the union structure had become an important part of the new social system, and the interests thus created developed their own dynamic. One of the characteristics of the new system was what has been described by J. Medina Echeverría … as prebenclalismo. This Spanish usage refers to a situation in which the licit and illicit perquisites of office become the major concern of the officeholder, to the detriment of the performance of the office. It corresponds to a certain stage in the evolution of large-scale politico-bureaucratic structures.8

As Andrew Pearse has noted, the result was the appearance of the cacique, or sindicato chieftain, a prebendal position: “The absence of a leadership unified around a clear doctrine and an articulated programme, and the contagious spread of norms of self-enrichment altered the motivation of those into whose hands power and control over facilities were thrust.”9

Caciquismo Emergent

The dirigente level of sindicato leadership, based on local and provincial control, was thus superseded by power holders at the departmental and national levels. Within a few months during 1959-60, this reordering of authority and influence led to the emergence of peasant caciquismo, a phenomenon best revealed in the 1960 presidential election. Whereas the 1956 election was a pro forma exercise with the MNR opposed only by a few weak and cowed parties (e.g., Falange Socialista Boliviana; Partido de la Unión República Socialista; Partido Comunista de Bolivia), the 1960 election revealed deep cleavages within the MNR. The administration of President Hernán Siles Zuazo (1956-60) had attempted, with great difficulty, to implement the stabilization plan drawn up by North American economists to stem the country’s rampant inflation.10 Both because the austerity necessitated by stabilization meant a slowdown of the revolutionary program, and because it was only minimally successful, it sharpened a rift that had appeared between the movement’s right and left wings. The resignation of Vice-President Ñuflo Chávez Ortiz, the return of Víctor Paz Estenssoro as a presidential candidate, and the choice of leftist labor leader Juan Lechín Oquendo for the vice-presidency were among the major developments of this period.

The 1960 election campaign was contested from within the MNR by dissident right-wing Movimientistas. Wálter Guevara Arze, one-time foreign minister (1952-56) was personally affronted by the choice of his foe Juan Lechín for the vice-presidency. Disappointed at failing to secure a nomination and critical of the institutionalized MNR bureaucracy, Guevara Arze formed a new party, the “Authentic” National Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario Auténtico; MNRA).11 The 1960 election campaign served as a watershed: peasant activity hereafter would involve the contest of splinter MNR parties that felt compelled to enlist syndical support, which in turn had a major impact on peasant political activities.

National politics could hardly avoid an enfranchised peasantry in a country of rural majority, and, while dirigentes controlled the votes of local sindicatos, a handful of caciques held the key to the critical peasant electorate. Sindicato leadership reached the cacique level in the areas of high demographic concentration: the Provinces of Quillacollo, Jordán, and Punata in the Cochabamba valleys and Omasuyos Province in La Paz Department. Competition for hegemony within these areas came to be marked by endemic violence as armed force became the arbiter in syndical rivalry. The sindicato militia thus emerged as an agent of syndical politics, an altogether different end than that originally conceived by the MNR.12 Although remaining formidable as a deterrent to counterrevolutionary opposition, the peasant militias became the symbol of internecine strife and national instability. The inability to resolve this problem decisively was symptomatic of the conflict internal to the MNR in its later phase.

Caciquismo in the Valleys

Caciquismo reached its rural apogee in the Cliza-Ucureña area of the Valle Alto. That the phenomenon owed much to the machinations of the revolutionary elder statesman José Rojas is only fitting. José Rojas is a symbol for an age; a legend in his own time, his life is synonymous with the peasant cause.13 Rojas fought in the Chaco War, was captured by the Paraguayans, and served thirty months in a prisoner of war camp. Released, he returned to the hacienda of Ana Rancho where he and a number of other peasant veterans of the Chaco War organized the sindicato of Ana Rancho. The sindicato briefly accomplished the unthinkable when its members, colonos and pegujaleros (“sharecroppers”), themselves rented the land. Coincidentally, in another unprecedented move, a school was opened for their children. The sindicato was soon the target of hacendado fury: the renters were forcibly driven from the land, their houses burned, and Rojas and other leaders jailed at Chimoré in the Chapare. He was later deported to Argentina where he worked in the north. After the Revolution, Rojas returned to Ucureña and syndical politics, to become the dominant figure in the regional Sindicato del Valle, composed of the rancherías of Ucureña, Kekoma, Rumi Rumi, Punata, Ansaldo, Pili Coccha, and Ana Rancho.14

Historically, Ucureña was an exceptional center of peasant unrest. The organization of the sindicato antedated the Revolution by fifteen years and it was in Ucureña that revolutionary land seizures first followed the MNR victory. A font of agitation for the revolutionary peasant awakening, the Ucureña sindicato hosted the act that turned the idea of agrarian reform into formal law: the Agrarian Reform Decree of August 2, 1953.

Rojas’s power rested on the cuartel general (general barracks) at Ucureña, 20 kilometers from the departmental capital of Cochabamba, in the densely populated Valle Alto. This region was a rural anomaly because of the pronounced pattern of subdivided landholdings. Thus, as one scholar has concluded: “Land had become less the prerogative of the privileged few and increasingly available to lower city and town elite. ”15 José Rojas’s appeal was to the poorest campesinos, the colonos and pegujaleros. In his words, “The piqueros [small peasant landholders] were satisfied people … the ones who wanted to become organized now were colonos who had no land.”16

José Rojas established the ascendancy of Ucureña in the valleys after a power struggle with an early rival, Sinforoso Rivas, the MNR’s voice of moderation in the first months of the agrarian movement. In contrast to Rojas, Rivas was tame: he had been a petty bureaucrat in the mines, was literate, and represented the more prosperous neighbors in and about the pueblos of the Valle Bajo. Before he was displaced by Rojas, Rivas had extended his influence to the Valle Alto where he had the support of the mayor of Cliza, the town located but a few kilometers from Rojas’s Ucureña bastion.

José Rojas’s position within the Cochabamba peasant movement peaked in the late 1950s: the MNR appointed him minister of peasant affairs in 1959, the first and last time a peasant occupied the post.17 The assignment required that Rojas move to La Paz, and when he returned to Cochabamba, he faced a challenge to his power. A bid for control of the peasant movement came from the sindicato at nearby Cliza, a stone’s throw from the occasional stream known as the Río Retama that divides the town and ranchería.

Cliza is a regional curiosity, one of those small towns whose extremism epitomizes a cultural ideal. The Cliceño is the cholo at his most picaresque, the small town hustler par excellence.18 For over a century Cliza has been “famous for its central market ... an important social and economic articulating mechanism between Valley [and] Serranía [highland peasants], town and city people.”19 During Wednesday and Saturday markets, Serranos and other campesinos negotiate amid town and city people: “The majority of townspeople were referred to as ‘los del pueblo by gente decente. Although this term was applied also derogatorily, gente decente applied the term cholo’ if they wanted to stress distinctions.”20 The sharpest distinction, however, was that between campesinos, or Indios, and the more hispanicized of the racial continuum: gente del pueblo, or cholos, and gente decente. Clothing and language also differentiated rural from town and city people.

It is worthwhile to compare Cliza, the town, with Ucureña, the nearby ranchería and archetype of revolutionary syndicalism. With the Revolution of 1952 came domination by Ucureña of Cliceño political life: a dramatic reversal with the perquisites of power now controlled by the Ucureña sindicato, led by José Rojas.

The Rojas organization incoiporated local officials at the alcalde level in a regional network of loyal sindicatos rooted in the rancherías and pueblos of the Cochabamba valleys.21 Control of the chicha (maize beer) tax supported the organization. Cliza is famed for the quality and quantity of the ancient ambrosia produced and consumed by the locals. All Cliceños drink the beverage, some 4,900 bottles per day; sale of the brew— advertised by white flags flying from cane poles atop the purveyors’ houses—constitutes a cottage industry.22 Those hapless villagers who failed to pay the tax, if apprehended, were obligated to pawn their valuables— earrings, hats, aguayos (weavings). The tax was considered onerous, and was a source of widespread bitterness during the Old Regime.23 Curiously, the tax survived the Revolution, sans the official pawn system, by becoming incorporated into the Rojas political organization. It was no less disliked in its provincial form.

The national election campaign of 1960, with dissident Wálter Guevara Arze seeking peasant support, was staged against this regional background. Guevara Arze’s Auténtico party criticized MNR management of the Revolution and appealed to those within the movement whose ambitions were stifled by MNR “bureaucratization. ”24 According to the MNRA, agrarian reform had merely created a new, syndical, feudalism. This attack on bureaucratization (read Rojas-Ucureña hegemony) and inertia in implementation of agrarian reform was led by the Cliceño cacique Miguel Veizaga:

Veizaga is a different person from José Rojas. He is articulate, enjoys playing chess, and for a time was an “evangelist,” a convert to a fundamentalist Protestant sect active in the valley. He resides in an indeterminate area on the fringe of Cliza which is not identified as either “town” or “rural.” This is part of his philosophy of working with campesinos closely surrounding the towns and the city of Cochabamba, those who have been least happy with Rojas’ forceful and sometimes brutal methods. He has the support of many of the townspeople of Cochabamba.25

One of the townspeople who did not support Veizaga was the MNR veteran Wálter Revuelta, a deputy and president of the Cochabamba junta rural. Señor Revuelta is distinguished from other members of the Cochabamba gentry by his long standing friendship with his childhood friend, José Rojas, a relationship noteworthy for the deference with which Rojas treats “don Wálter.”26 While subprefect of Cliza, Revuelta had backed Rojas in his early struggle with Sinforoso Rivas, and Revuelta had intervened to stop Rojas from invading the town to force local authorities to implement various agrarian reform measures. Importantly, the immediate event that plunged the valleys into civil war involved both Cliza and Wálter Revuelta.

The Cliza and Ucureña War

During an evening in late October 1959, Wálter Revuelta was passing the night with “friends and some señoras in a fiesta, a copita as it’s called, in Cliza.27 Around 11:00 p.m. the Revuelta party was interrupted by gunfire. As Revuelta entered the street to investigate, he was challenged by a group of Veizaguistas. A fracas ensued when he refused to give vivas for Whiter Guevara Arze, but instead cheered Víctor Paz as his jefe. His fealty cost Revuelta a severe beating and a fractured skull; it was also an affront to his honor, to his jefe, and to his party. With the Revuelta incident the glove was off; each side mobilized its forces. The valleys became strife-torn and factionalized.

On October 31, 1959, Rojistas attacked Cliza to avenge the “damaging affront” suffered by Wálter Revuelta.28 Two peasants were killed in four days of skirmishing between followers of the caciques. The government summarily dispatched a military force to control the situation and a commission to investigate the problem.

Meanwhile, Rojas organized an economic blockade of Cliza, site of the area’s weekly market. Reginning in late November and continuing into December, campesinos traveling to Cliza to sell their goods were forcibly detained in Punata by the local militia, loyal to Rojas. Peasants from Arani, Vacas, San Benito, and surrounding areas were denied the market. Campesinos from the Ucureña sindicato also blockaded Cliza and Arani by lodging boulders on the railroad track.29

By late November 1959, the general barracks of Ucureña was reportedly training campesino militiamen from the departments of Potosí, Sucre, and Tarija. Cliza nevertheless announced itself “armed and prepared to repel any aggression.”30 In December, the Ucureña sindicato dispatched fifty militiamen to mobilize the sindicato at Tiraque: an escalation of regional dimensions. At mid-month the MNR government had not only stationed troops in the zone, but had sent an official commission to study the problem. The commission found the two camps divided along an armed “frontier” following the course of the Rio Rétama.

The commission, headed by General Alfredo Pacheco Iturri, Rojas’s successor as minister of peasant affairs, and the minister of government, Dr. Carlos Morales Guillén, first visited Punata, where the principals were questioned. José Rojas claimed that the problem stemmed from “factors deriving from the incorporation of the peasantry into national life”; Salvador Vásquez, a Rojas lieutenant, accused Wálter Guevara Arze of “intellectual authorship” of the incidents; and Guevara Arze suggested communist instigators from Cliza.31 Campesinos questioned by an El Diario reporter put it simply: “They attacked us in our houses early in the morning of October 29 and we had to defend ourselves.”32

In Cliza, Miguel Veizaga told the commission that the feud resulted from the “deepening of the Revolution.”33 Specifically, he accused Rojas of exploiting the campesinos through monopoly of the regional patronage system (i.e., control over local officials, alcaldes, prefects, and subprefects, and the taxes that supported these officials). The fight was for “syndical democracy,” Veizaga told an interviewer: “We are fighting against bad dirigentes, against syndical caudillos and the massacres they commit.”34 Meanwhile, the caciques pursued intersyndical diplomacy. By early January 1960, Miguel Veizaga had formed a pact with peasant syndicates in the provinces of Quillacollo, Ayopaya, and Arque; an attack on one was to be considered an attack on all.35 Veizaga claimed additional sindicato support in the provinces of Tarata, Mizque, Aiquile, Ansaldo, Arque, and parts of Punata, Arani, and Sacaba.36

Of greater import was the formation of alliances between peasants’ and miners’ sindicatos. Inherent in the definition of caciquismo is the element of the extraordinary; both caciques transcended the conventional local machinations common to syndical politics at the dirigente level. In March 1959, the peasant sindicatos of Ucureña, Sacaba, and Quillacollo had signed an intersyndical pact for the defense of the government with the miners’ sindicatos of Colquiri, Japo, and Morococala.37 Miguel Veizaga later concluded a “mutual defense pact” with the miners’ sindicatos at Huanuni, and a new phase in syndical politics emerged.38

Bolivian miners have traditionally been the most politicized sector in national politics, recognized throughout the continent for militancy and class consciousness. Unlike the peasantry, the miners had played a decisive role in the revolutionary events of April 1952. Miners were often the carriers of revolutionary syndicalism to the peasant masses surrounding the isolated mining centers, and they would continue to adhere to revolutionary goals throughout the MNR era and beyond.39

While the situation in the Cochabamba valleys was referred to as a “cold war,” by January 1960 representatives of the caciques were reported as far as the mining centers of Oruro and Potosí, procuring arms and munitions.40 The cold war gave way to military action on January 25–26, when a Veizaguista was hanged by Rojas partisans. The site was the Huanuni mining district, one of the more militant foci of revolutionary unionism.41 In accordance with the Cliza-Huanuni pact, Veizaga mobilized the militias at his disposal. On the night of January 25, Veizaguistas occupied the towns of Torata and Tolata; they also seized control of the Angostura Dam, crucial to the region’s water supply. Rumors had Veizaga preparing to invade Ucureña and Punata, and Rojas planning to besiege the city of Cochabamba. The detention of the Veizaguista dirigente, Jorge Campos of Quillacollo, at the Ucureña subcentral at Mallco Rancho, exacerbated an already explosive situation.42

In hopes of forestalling a virtual civil war among the Cochabamba peasantry, a second government commission was dispatched to the area. Víctor Paz Estenssoro and Wálter Guevara Arze arrived in Cochabamba on separate airplanes and proceeded to the zones of their supporters: Paz Estenssoro to Punata-Ucureña; Guevara Arze to Cliza.43 An uneasy truce, occasionally broken by skirmishing, was imposed on the region for the next few months. Responsibility for order was entrusted to the military, and in early March 1960 the provinces of Punata and Jordán were declared military zones. The army enforced a “dry law,” forbade campesinos to bear arms, and refused to allow MNR or MNRA politicians to enter the area.44

Wálter Guevara Arze understood the MNR’s declaration of a military zone, with its prohibition of political activity, as an MNR scheme to deny votes to the MNRA. In a series of brief public announcements, he accused the Siles administration of siding with the Rojas bloc against Veizaga’s Auténtico organization.45 The presidential candidate cited numerous instances in which government officials ignored abuses perpetrated by Rojistas. Further, Colonel Eduardo Rivas Ugalde served the dual function of MNR departmental chief-of-command and commander-in-chief of the Campesino Militia of Ucureña, the latter a position unique to this situation. This led Guevara Arze to accuse the MNR of using the military as a “political instrument,” similar to its role under the Rosea in the prerevolutionary period: “The pazestenssorista sector … seems to be using the systems of the oligarchy in a way that Señor Urriolagoitia himself would be unable to better.”46

According to Guevara Arze’s critique, the policy resulted in military oppression of the people, a timely observation. Increasingly the MNR was to rely on the military—to break strikes, to intimidate dissident miners and rebellious townspeople, to subdue peasant sindicatos in Cochabamba and elsewhere—to keep a disintegrating movement from collapse. Later events would demonstrate the inefficacy of reviving the historic interest of the Bolivian military in national politics.

The Cliza-Ucureña truce, enforced by the Seventh Division, was untenable by May 1960.47 Whereas sindicato conflict had earlier involved roadblocks, attacks on military posts, and the besieging of towns, the confrontation now assumed a new dimension. A line of fixed fortifications extended along a “frontier” following the Río Retama. Beyond these lines of entrenchments peasant marauders, aligned with one or the other cacique, roamed the countryside terrorizing the opposition.48 The military command was unable to respond effectively to this development, and peasant hands operated with relative impunity.

On May 7, 1960, women and children marched from Cliza to Cochabamba protesting a threat by José Rojas to sack the town. The group carried placards (“We Ask Guarantees In Order to Live”; “Cliza Asks Liberty”) and sought the mediation of the papal nuncio and the good offices of foreign diplomats to settle the imbroglio.49 Its efforts were to no avail. The situation continued to worsen. By mid-May, entrenchments stretched for more than 10 kilometers on each side of the Retama. The armies were well equipped with mortars, machine guns, automatic rifles, and explosives. The no-man’s-land between the trenches was covered by machine gun emplacements and passage was impossible. Volleying across the frontier devastated livestock, and martial obligations drew the peasants’ attention from their fields. More than 8,000 campesinos were mobilized in the region, and reporters predicted that any attempt to assault the trenches would end in bloodshed of proportions unprecedented in Bolivian history.50

Once again fearing a possible civil war, the MNR dispatched a pacification commission to forestall the unthinkable. The commission, led by General Alfredo Ovando Candía, Monseñor Armando Gutiérrez Granier, and Rector of the Universidad Mayor de San Simón Raúl Maldonado, visited first Punata and then Cliza. At Punata, José Rojas accused Guevara Arze of inciting the peasantry, distributing arms and munitions to his partisans, and intervening in syndical questions.51 Rojas further claimed that Guevara Arze’s intention was to destroy Ucureña in a bloody quest for votes in the coming election. The commission also heard the dirigente Ramón Torrico state that the conflict began at the Campesino Congress at Sacaba where Veizaga challenged Rojas’s suzerainty. Veizaga spoke of the MNR as once a party backed by the peasantry in order to forge a new Bolivia and asked for an agrarian reform of “construction and not destruction and death.”52

The commission managed to get the warring caciques to agree to a pact of pacification with the following guarantees: freedom of traffic on the Cochabamba–Santa Cruz highway; free entrance to provincial markets; prohibition of the sale of arms, munitions, and liquor before 6:00 p.m.; respect for the authority of the regular army; and exclusion of politicians from the zone. The accord, which also called for the surrender of weapons to the army and an exchange of prisoners, was signed by the two caciques and their dirigentes: Ramón Torrico, Macedonio Pérez, Manuel Pedrazo, Basilio Grágeda, Julián Chávez, Sixto Soto, Ignacio Guevara, and Froilán Escobar for Cliza; and Constantino Inturias, Jorge Solíz, Fermín Delgadillo, and Gregorio López for Ucureña.53

As with previous attempts at pacification, the pact failed. It was essentially a negative document, which sought to settle the Rojas-Veizaga controversy through prohibitions, and it avoided the underlying cause of the conflict. The caciques were locked in a power struggle that turned on the question of syndical leadership of the valleys’ peasantry. Any resolution of the problem of organized violence in the region would fail if it ignored this reality. On May 24, 1960, it was reported that the caciques were again at war.

Whereas previous action had been confined to the more immediate area surrounding the two sindicatos and had involved a static concept of warfare with extensive entrenchment, battalions of well-armed campesinos had now burst out of the military zone and into northern Potosí Department. Units of up to 200 peasants operated along the Cochabamha-Potosí border. Using modern equipment, automatic weapons, and explosives, the peasant forces expanded their theater: Veizaguistas controlled the pueblos of Yambata, Tunasani, and Taconi; the rival Rojistas dominated the pueblos of Chorona, Huacahuatana, and Laguna.54 The military stretched its zone from Punata-Jordán to northern Potosí.

Partisans of the caciques fought a number of pitched battles, and at the pueblo of Vila Vila a common grave was discovered with the bodies of seventeen militiamen. The Vila Vila incident aroused national interest.55 Rojas and Veizaga accused each other of the atrocity until an official inquiry announced that the victims were Rojistas. Veizaga denied complicity and denounced the commission as biased. Guevara Arze interpreted the Vila Vila affair as a maneuver to liquidate the Auténtico cacique.55 A final solution to the bloody rivalry was offered by Veizaga, who challenged José Rojas to a duel as a way of eliminating one of the causes of the conflict. Rojas ignored the challenge.57

The Election of 1960

Guevara Arze’s Auténtico campaign of 1960 offered the first real electoral challenge to the MNR. In the election of 1956, the MNR had overwhelmingly carried the campo and won by a narrow margin over the FSB (Falange Socialista Boliviana; Bolivian Socialist Falange) in the major cities.58 Given the preponderance of rural voters, the MNR regime had suffered no serious threat. Agrarian reform and universal suffrage, the basis of the MNR claim to have given the peasantry “land and liberty,” had deprived traditional leftist parties of the decisive political issues. MNR peasant dirigentes had faithfully celebrated this reality by delivering huge blocs of votes to the Revolutionary Movement’s candidates (Hernán Siles and Ñuflo Chávez). Colored ballots for the parties served to differentiate the choices for a largely illiterate peasantry; they also facilitated supervision of the rural vote by the dirigentes. In many areas only MNR ballots had been distributed, and in others illegal practices had resulted in more votes than voters.59 All factors had contributed to an easy MNR victory in 1956.

The 1960 election results, while no more honest than those of the earlier contest, represented a threat to the MNR regime. Factionalism and disunity had come to define Bolivian politics; the revolutionary movement was in serious disrepair. The combined MNRA-FSB opposition polled 22 percent of the vote. In the major cities the contest was extremely close: Sucre, Cochabamba, Oruro, and Potosí gave the combined opposition a majority. And in La Paz, seat of MNR power, the vote was clearly less than a mandate.60 The election was won in the provinces where the peasantry delivered a flood of votes to the MNR. The Auténtico campaign not only had an impact on the peasant vote; it pointed up critical divisions in the revolutionary movement.61

The results of both the 1956 and 1960 elections demonstrate the pivotal role played by the peasantry in support of the MNR. The election revealed a country divided by urban-rural polarity. The peasantry, beneficiary of agrarian reform and the right to enter politics, provided a populist underpinning for the Revolution. The Auténtico schism was but the first obvious fissure in a disintegrating movement whose greatest threat would prove to come from within.

In a letter to Guevara Arze, a number of leading peasant Auténticos, including Miguel Veizaga and Oruro cacique Zenón Barrientos Mamani, renounced membership in the MNRA. They lamented the rift in the peasantry caused by sectarianism, by “hatred and violence, corruption and immorality.”62 Guevara Arze replied that Barrientos Mamani had “sold the lot of peasant dirigentes as if they were cattle,”63 to which the cacique responded: “We are not followers; for us the epoch in which Indians were managed as a simple appendage of the political apparatus remains behind.”64

Miguel Veizaga announced in an open letter to President-elect Víctor Paz Estenssoro that although he had delivered 5,000 votes to the MNRA in the election, he wished to return to the MNR. The cacique expressed his interest in pacification of the valleys and free elections for the Cochabamba Peasant Federation. Paz Estenssoro replied that the peasantry should be unified and loyal to the party of “land and liberty.”65 At Cliza’s “August 2” Peasant Central, those dirigentes who had supported the MNRA renounced Auténtico affiliation and returned to the MNR. The Auténtico thrust had failed.

The immediate postelection period was a time of calm. The Siles administration, in its last cabinet meeting, ended the military zone that had been enforced in the region for months. Veizaga journeyed to La Paz to discuss the situation with newly inaugurated President Víctor Paz Estenssoro. Veizaga averred that the Cliza-Ucureña war had resulted from syndical bullying by José Rojas.66 He claimed that agricultural production had dropped because of the war and reaffirmed his interest in the pacification of the valleys. In hopes of devising a solution to the impasse, Paz Estenssoro dispatched a commission to Cochabamba.

José Rojas dashed any hopes of accommodation by announcing, on August 29, 1960, his intention of blockading the city of Cochabamba as a protest against the failure of the government to bring Veizaga to trial for the Vila Vila incident. Rojas threatened to cut off the city’s water, lights, and communications, and announced a strike by the peasants under his direction.67 In response to a telegram from Rojas, the National Confederation of Peasant Workers in La Paz petitioned the minister of justice to “castigate” Veizaga and his dirigentes for “acts of genocide committed in Vila Vila against more than a hundred peasants.”68

On the morning of August 30, the commander of the Seventh Division reported machine gun and mortar fire along the Cliza-Ucureña frontier and noted the gravity of the situation.69 Regular army forces were positioned along the road from Cochabamba to Ucureña and around Angostura Dam to prevent sabotage by Rojistas. Salvador Vásquez, a Rojista dirigente, reiterated the threat to Cochabamba: “We will block the roads, the railroad lines, and be forced to occupy Cliza to apprehend the leaders of the bloody acts.”70 Vásquez in turn boasted that forty sindicatos were ready to move on command.

Rojas’s grand strategy encompassed the threat to Cochabamba, mobilization of his satrapies in Cochabamba, and alliances with other peasants and miners. Augustín Arancibia, secretary general of the Chiriria Central, a group of some eighty sindicatos in northern Potosí, alerted his militias to prepare “to end once and for all the power of traitorous elements such as Miguel Veizaga, guilty of dividing the Cochabamba peasantry.”71 The mining centers of Catavi, Siglo XX, San José, and Huanuni (previously allied with Veizaga) telegraphed their support to the press: “In case the problem does not come to an opportune and favorable solution, armed militias will drive the enemy from Cliza.”72

Cochabamba was aghast at the prospect of a peasant invasion, and the Paz Estenssoro government besieged with petitions for defense of the city from all quarters: the Rotary and Lions Clubs, Red Cross, Catholic Women’s Club, Lawyers College, Pro-Cochabamba Committee, and Catholic Action. The Legion of Ex-Combatents, veterans of the Chaco War, volunteered 6,000 men for the city’s defense.73 Nevertheless, the army estimated that an additional 5,000 troops would be needed to repulse a Rojas invasion.

Rojas’s strategy served his design. On September 6, the Ucureña dirigente, Salvador Vásquez, cancelled the blockade that was to begin the following day.74 The government then initiated legal action against Veizaga and nine dirigentes for the Vila Vila incident and for an attack on the subprefect and major of carabineros at Tarata.75 One hundred carabineros were dispatched to apprehend the cacique, but Veizaga faded into the valleys’ fastness; by November he was back in Cliza directing syndical affairs and skirmishing resumed between the hostile sindicatos.76

A company of carabineros, sent to apprehend the leading Veizaguistas, sparked the “Battle of Cliza” by attacking the sindicato headquarters and the houses of the dirigentes César Román and Octavio Cedeño. The carabineros were repulsed, but intense fighting developed when Rojista militias approached the outskirts of town.77 More than fifty lives were lost before a semblance of order returned to Cliza. To forestall further bloodshed, the Bolivian Air Force began reconnaissance flights over the region, and three hundred troops from the “Waldo Ballivián” regiment in La Paz were sent to occupy the zone.78 A state of siege was again imposed as sporadic violence continued, including assaults on an army patrol and an air force base near Cochabamba.79

The state of siege and military occupation restored order to the zone. Vice-President Juan Lechín Oquendo flew to Cochabamba to confer with Miguel Veizaga; the cacique agreed to free elections in all sindicatos and the selection of new local authorities by the Cliceños.80 An end to harrassment, juridical and otherwise, was the quid pro quo for Veizaga’s concurrence.81

Dénouement: The Fifth Cochabamba Peasant Conference

A pacification conference was convened on December 17, 1960, to terminate formally the Cliza and Ucureña war. Representatives of the valleys’ sindicatos met to elect new officers and draw up a code of syndical rules. Elections were intended to replace the caciques with moderate dirigentes; the syndical regulations proscribed sectarianism (e.g., “Identity of struggle with the MNR”; “Sanctions for those who betray and divide the peasant class”).82 Pacification, then, involved obeisance to the MNR as the party of the Revolution.

The conference, held at Santiváñez, is surrounded by controversy; indeed, it opened with a stacked deck when the 19 Veizaguista delegates arrived to face 500 or more Rojista militants. In the face of intimidation and threats—Jorge Soliz declared, “Those culpable of dividing the peasantry should be shot”—the Cliceños retreated from Santiváñez.83 Nevertheless, the syndical regulations were codified under the auspices of Minister of Peasant Affairs Roberto Jordán Pando and signed by representatives of both Cliza and Ucureña.

Days after the conference, Miguel Veizaga concluded a private meeting with Jordán Pando. The two then appeared on the balcony of the Alcalde building in Cliza where Veizaga tearfully announced:

The Revolution of April 9th promised a resurgence of the peasant class and offered a flourishing future for the pueblos; it offered to the campesinos schools, hospitals, plows, seeds, discounts, loans and many other things for the progress of the country; but, where are those promises of the National Revolution? Where are the schools, hospitals, and the progress? And where is the collaboration of the peasant in his cultural and economic resurgence? Until now, we see only death and misery in our towns and countryside.84

This said, Veizaga announced: “Now that we are in the stage of gaining pacification and unity, I will shortly return to work in my chacra, withdrawing from syndical life.”85

History would prove Veizaga a bit melodramatic here. Despite his proffer to exit from syndical politics, and President Paz Estenssoro’s demand for “pacification at any price,” the Cliza and Ucureña war was to degenerate into episodic feuding during the last Paz Estenssoro administration.86


Seizure of power in Bolivia has historically been accomplished with forces of fewer than 500 insurgents.87 During the years 1959-60, the number in peasant sindicato militias was estimated at between 50,000 and 75,000:88 “Militia groups in Bolivia, only a few thousand of whose members are under the direct control of the government, are equal to or larger than the police and the army combined in terms of manpower.”89 Clearly, then, the peasantry, by means of its sindicato militias, had the potential to deliver to the rural masses the political influence historically denied them.90 The militias failed to fulfill their revolutionary promise during the late 1950s because of regional parochialism. This was notably the case in densely populated Cochabamba Department where rivalries induced by local caciques in Ucureña and Cliza led to endemic violence and militia forces temporarily became the ultimate arbiters of syndical politics. Rural instability and the inability of the MNR government decisively to resolve local issues were symptomatic of the conflict internal to the revolutionary movement in its later years.

Despite their inability to work collectively, the peasant sindicatos were politically crucial in at least two ways: they led the assault on the landlord class and destroyed it; and in many communities, by selecting leaders from outside the traditional cargo system, they successfully challenged traditional peasant values.

The MNR decision to enfranchise peasants and women was in many respects as brilliant as Juan Perón’s embrace of labor and the descamisados. As an electorate, the peasant majority legitimized the MNR one-party system, as was underscored in 1960 when, despite considerable peasant support for the MNRA, rural votes swung the election to the MNR.

Ironically, perhaps, the military potential of the peasants led to their fall from positions of influence within the MNR. A contemporary strategic estimate of peasant success led analysts to conclude that the sindicato militias “pose a subversive threat to the MNR… . This is not lost on the government, which since 1962 has endeavored to find some ways to assert its complete dominance over outlying areas in which they [the militias] operate.”91 The MNR did not find an answer. The military did. In November 1964, the resurgent armed forces staged a successful coup d’état, captured the government in La Paz, and quickly extended its authority over the rural population.92 The military has dominated Bolivian politics ever since.


See Christopher Mitchell, The Legacy of Populism in Bolivia: From the MNR to Military Rule (New York, 1977), pp. 78-81; Laurence Whitehead, “The State and Sectional Interests: The Bolivian Case, ” European Journal of Political Research, 3 (June 1975), 115-146; and James Malloy, “Authoritarianism and Corporatism: The Case of Bolivia,” in James Malloy, ed., Authoritarianism and Corporatism in Latin America (Pittsburgh, 1977), pp. 459-85.


The 1896 use of peasants by the liberals under José Manuel Pando is a notable exception to the general rule. Indeed, as Andrew Pearse has noted, “the character of a breach of taboo hangs over this event”; Andrew Pearse, The Latin American Peasant (London, 1975), p. 132. The development of the peasant rebellion that began Pando’s overture is treated in the recent classic by Ramiro Condarco Morales, Zárate, El Temible Willka (La Paz, 1966).


The Cochabamba valleys refer to three densely populated basins: the Valle Bajo, seat of the city of Cochabamba; the Valle Alto to the southwest, which includes the Cliza-Ucureña area; and the Valle de Sacaba, northwest of the city of Cochabamba.


See, for example, the early work by Richard Patch, “Bolivia: The Restrained Revolution,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 334 (Mar. 1961), 123-132; also Jorge Dandler-Hanhart, “Politics of Leadership, Brokerage and Patronage in the Campesino Movement of Cochabamba, Bolivia, 1935—1954” (Ph.D. Diss., University of Wisconsin, 1971); Christine Whitehead, “Cochabamba Landowners and the Agrarian Reform” (Ph.D. Diss., Oxford University, 1970); William Carter, “Revolution and the Agrarian Sector” in James Malloy and Richard Thorn, eds., Beyond the Revolution: Bolivia Since 1952 (Pittsburgh, 1971); and, James Kohl, “Peasant and Revolution in Bolivia, April 9, 1952-August 2, 1953,” HAHR, 58 (May 1978), 252-254.


George McCutchen McBride, “The Agrarian Indian Communities of Highland Bolivia,” American Geographic Society Research Series, 5 (1921), 1-27. The maps, pp. 24-25, with numbers of community Indians in 1854 and 1900 are a particularly poignant illustration of the accelerating destruction of the ayllus. Recent scholarship has explored the regional variations in demographic and ecological conditions that influenced the growth and decline of hacienda and free Indian tributaries in the nineteenth century. See Erwin P. Grieshaber, “Survival of Indian Communities in Nineteenth-Century Bolivia: A Regional Comparison,” Journal of Latin American Studies, 12 (Nov. 1980), 223-269.


The touchstone for the statistical realities of the land-tenure system in prerevolutionary Bolivia is: República de Bolivia. Ministerio de Hacienda, Censo Agropecuario 1950 (La Paz, 1950).


In general, the agrarian revolution allowed for the rise of a new style of leadership: see, for example, the case presented by William Carter in “Revolution and the Agrarian Sector in Malloy and Thom, eds., Beyond the Revolution, p. 237, and Dwight B. Heath, “Bolivia: Peasant Syndicates among the Aymara of the Yungas—A View from the Grass Roots” in Henry Landsberger, ed., Latin American Peasant Movements (Ithaca, 1969), pp. 195-198. There are exceptions to the pattern, however, as illustrated by Roger Simmons in Palca and Pucara: A Study of the Effects of Revolution on Two Bolivian Haciendas (Berkeley, 1971); Simmons observed that while a local dirigente was selected because he spoke Spanish, the “skill turned out to be a minor consideration” and the dirigente “fails totally as a modernizing ‘cultural broker’ in dealing with the outside … p. 135.


Pearse, The Latin American Peasant, pp. 157-158.


Ibid., p. 159.


The nuances of the International Monetary Fund and North American “aid” are perceptively explored (including the reappearance of the dread military institution under United States influence) in Laurence Whitehead’s The United States and Bolivia: A Case of Neo-Colonialism (Oxford, 1969). For an insider’s view, see George J. Eder, Inflation and Development in Latin America: A Case History of Inflation and Stabilization in Bolivia (Ann Arbor, 1968).


Also referred to as the PRA (Partido Revolucionario Auténtico) and PMNRA (Partido del Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario Auténtico); see Partido del Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario Auténtico, P.M.N.R.A. Expositión de motivos y declaración de principles (La Paz, 1960), and, also, Mario Rolón Anaya, Política y partidos en Bolivia (La Paz, 1966), pp. 311-321.


Indispensable for an understanding of the potential role of the sindicato militia is the detailed organizational handbook prepared by Capitán Oscar Daza Barrenechea, Sistematización armada de la revolución national (n.p., 1960). Guillermo Lora, in Sindicatos y revolutión (La Paz, 1960), presents a critique of the sindicato from the Trotskyist left.


The standard academic presentation of the Rojas phenomenon is Richard Patch’s influential essay, “Bolivia: U.S. Assistance in a Revolutionary Setting” in Richard Adams et al., Social Change in Latin America Today (New York, 1961), pp. 108-176. Patch’s student, Jorge Dandler-Hanhart, has amplified the topic in “Politics of Leadership,” and James Kohl notes Patch’s imprint on the scholarly literature in “Peasant and Revolution in Bolivia,” p. 243. Simmons provides a vignette of Rojas’s influence at the local level in Palca and Pucara, p. 140, while the brief essay, “José Rojas, líder de los campesinos,” in the ephemeral El Pionero, 1 (Apr. 1954), 51-53, is indispensable for the specifics of Rojas’s struggle and the spirit of the era; also indispensable is the Rojas story in La Natión (La Paz), Apr. 25, 1959, p. 4.


La Natión, Apr. 25, 1959, p. 4.


Dandler-Hanhart, “Politics of Leadership,” p. 28.


Ibid., p. 161. These distinctions were not as marked in the Cochabamba valleys as elsewhere in Bolivia because of the increasing redistribution of land and the social mobility that make the region unique: “As land became further subdivided and the agricultural importance of the valleys increased during the Nineteenth Century, land became more accessible to other townspeople of lesser wealth and name (gente del pueblo). Some even managed to own quintas, recreos, and villas. Increasingly, these terms no longer implied extensive land ownership and exclusive economic status.” Idem, p. 40.


For Rojas’s ministerial style—he spoke Quechua exclusively and traveled in a chauffeured limousine—see Richard Patch, “Bolivia Today: An Assessment Nine Years After the Revolution,” American Universities Field Staff, 8 (Mar. 1961), 15.


“It should be explained that Cliza is famous throughout Bolivia for two things. First, it is supposed to be a town of nimble-fingered persons with an art for appropriating articles that do not always belong to them. The villagers are muy vivo—picaresque characters who always manage to gain the advantage over a person from any less fortunate place. It is apparently true—certainly often repeated—that some thirty years ago a townsman purloined the hat of President Salamanca while he was making a speech in Cliza… . The second famous attribute of Cliza is the ability to make the best chicha in the world, which it quite possibly does.” Richard Patch, “Bolivia: The Seventh Year, American Universities Field Staff, 6 (Feb. 1959), 12.


Dandler-Hanhart, “Politics of Leadership,” p. 27.


Ibid., p. 40.


The Rojas organization has been noted by Patch in “Bolivia Today, and Bolivia: The Seventh Year.” The local nexus (“There is some indication, for example, that the Punata Central collects a rake-off on taxes collected from peasants in the market”) is briefly treated by Simmons in Palca and Pucara, pp. 139-143.


Rough figures for the year 1954 show consumption to be phenomenal in the valleys (e.g., Punata, 8,000 bottles per day; Totora, 5,000; Quillacollo, 10,000) with a departmental total of 58,000,000 for the year: enough to half fill the Laguna de Aladay, noted El Diario (La Paz), Jan. 1, 1955, p. 7; also see El Diario, Jan. 25, 1955, p. 6.


Interview by the author with Miguel Veizaga, Cochabamba, Bolivia, Aug. 23, 1970.


Partido del Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario Auténtico, P.M.N.R.A. Exposition de Motives, pp. 46, 66. See also Ronald Clark, “Problems and Conflicts over Land Ownership in Bolivia,” Inter-American Economic Affairs, 22 (Spring 1969), 3-18, for the continued bureaucratic morass attendant upon the agrarian reform process.


Richard Patch, “Bolivia Today,” pp. 15-16.


When this writer at last cajoled José Rojas into an interview, it was at Wálter Revuelta’s crumbling casa on the outskirts of Cochabamba. Rojas prefers Quechua to Spanish and “don Wálter” translated and editorialized on various topics pursued over brandy and jaras of chicha. Interview by the author with José Rojas and Wálter Revuelta, Cochabamba, Bolivia, Aug. 25, 1970.




La Presencia (La Paz), Nov. 4, 1959, p. 5; El Diario, Nov. 1, 1959, p. 7, Nov. 6, 1959, p. 6.


El Diario, Nov. 24, 1959, p. 6.


Ibid., Nov. 25, 1959, p. 6.


Ibid., Dec. 16, 1959, p. 7; La Presencia, Dec. 16, 1959, p. 4.






La Presencia, Jan. 9, 1960, p. 4.


Ibid., Jan. 7, 1960, p. 4.


Ibid., Jan. 9, 1960, p. 4.


El Diario, Mar. 19, 1959, p. 7.


La Presencia, Jan. 27, 1960, p. 5.


See Steven Volk, “Class, Union, Party: The Development of a Revolutionary Union Movement in Bolivia (1905—1952),” Science and Society, 39 (Spring 1975), 26–13, for the backdrop to the revolution, and June Nash, We Eat the Mines and the Mines Eat Us (New York, 1979), for the definitive statement on the subculture and history of the miners. Michael Taussig builds upon Nash’s fieldwork in a series of provocative essays in The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America (Chapel Hill, 1980), pp. 143-228.


La Presencia, Jan. 7, 1960, p. 4.


Ibid., Jan. 27, 1960, p. 5.


El Diario, Jan. 26, 1960, p. 6; La Presencia, Jan. 27, 1960, p. 5.


A revealing incident, apropos the alleged reverence of “don Víctor” Paz Estenssoro by the peasantry, marked this visit to the valleys: when the “maximum leader” passed by Angostura Dam, controlled by Veizaguistas, his car was halted by armed campesinos who relieved the occupants of their money and watches. El Diario, Jan. 28, 1960, p. 7; La Presencia, Jan. 28, 1960, p. 5.


El Diario, Mar. 8, 1960, pp. 4, 6.


Ibid., Mar. 6, 1960, p. 6, Mar. 8, 1960, pp. 7, 9; La Presencia, Mar. 6, 1960, p. 5.


El Diario, Mar. 8, 1960, p. 7.


The Seventh Division has played an important role in recent Bolivian history: the Division was commanded for a time during this period by General Alfredo Ovando Candía, one of the coconspirators of the November 1964 coup; the Seventh Division also played a major role in the counterinsurgency operation against Che Guevara’s guerrilla war of 1967-68.


La Presencia, Apr. 14, 1960, p. 4; El Diario, Mar. 27, 1960, p. 5.


El Diario, May 10, 1960, p. 4; La Presencia, May 10, 1960, p. 5.


El Diario, May 12, 1960, p. 6.


El Diario, May 14, 1960, p. 6; La Presencia, May 16, 1960, p. 4.




El Diario, May 15, 1960, p. 7.


Originally reported in the newspapers El Mundo (Cochabamba) and Crítica (Cochabamba), the stories were reprinted in El Diario, May 25, 1960, p. 5.


See Benjamín I. Cordeiro, Tragedia en Indoamérica (Córdoba, 1964), pp. 189-190; and also El Diario, June 15, 1960, p. 7, June 16, 1960, p. 7, June 17, 1960, p. 4, June 29, 1960, pp. 5, 7; La Presencia, June 20, 1960, p. 5, June 22, 1960, p. 5, June 29, 1960, p. 4.


La Presencia, June 21, 1960, p. 5, June 28, 1960, p. 5; El Diario, June 19, 1960, p. 7.


Veizaga would fight the good fight: “one Cliceño is enough for ten Rojistas, because our people fight to defend their homes, wives, and children, while the Rojas people do not defend themselves from anyone and are moved by imposition and force.” El Diario, June 29, 1960, p. 5.


See La Nación, June 20, 1956, p. 5, for the national results and July 7, 1956, p. 5, for the Department of La Paz.


See Dwight B. Heath, “The Aymara Indians and Bolivia’s Revolutions,” Inter-American Economic Affairs, 18 (Spring 1966), 36.


The combined opposition tallied 44,449 votes to the MNR’s 55,766; La Nación, June 6, 1960, p. 5.


In Oruro Department, the Auténtico cacique, Zenón Barrientos Mamani, facilitated a strong MNRA turnout, 9,814 to 11,814 votes for the MNR; in the Cochabamba valleys the election revealed José Rojas’s hegemony over much of the region: Aiquile, Chilche, Punata, Tiraque, Machaca, Villa Grande, Ramadas, Arani, Colpaciaco, Pocoata, Ventilla, Morochata, Villa Tunari, and Vacas gave the MNR every vote cast; in Mizque and Pocana, for example, the MNR lost a total of 28 votes to the MNRA while polling nearly 4,400 votes; La Nación, June 6, 1960, p. 5.


The recantation continued: “The unity of the peasantry with the execution of Agrarian Reform and its intensification have to be products of the united and coordinated action of the agricultural workers themselves, free of the monopoly of party directives, free of sectarian mottos.” El Diario, July 26, 1960, p. 6; La Presencia, July 26, 1960, p. 4.


El Diario, July 26, 1960, p. 7; La Presencia, July 27, 1960, p. 4.


El Diario, July 29, 1960, p. 6.




La Presencia, Aug. 20, 1960, p. 4; El Diario, Aug. 20, 1960, p. 7.


La Presencia, Aug. 30, 1960, p. 4; El Diario, Aug. 30, 1960, p. 4.


El Diario, Aug. 31, 1960, p. 5; La Presencia, Sept. 2, 1960, p. 5.


El Diario, Aug. 31, 1960, p. 5; La Presencia, Aug. 31, 1960, p. 5.


La Presencia, Sept. 1, 1960, p. 5; El Diario, Sept. 1, 1960, p. 5.


La Presencia, Sept. 3, 1960, p. 4.


El Diario, Sept. 3, 1960, p. 5.


La Presencia, Sept. 3, 1960, p. 4; see also, La Presencia, Sept. 2, 1960, p. 5; El Diario, Sept. 4, 1960, p. 6, Sept. 5, 1960, p. 5.


El Diario, Sept. 6, 1960, p. 5.


La Presencia, Sept. 9, 1960, p. 5.


La Presencia, Sept. 7, 1960, p. 5, Sept. 22, 1960, p. 5; El Diario, Sept. 11, 1960, p. 7.


El Diario, Nov. 15, 1960, pp. 7, 9, Nov. 16, 1960, pp. 6, 9, Nov. 14, 1960, p. 5; La Presencia, Nov. 14, 1960, p. 5, Nov. 15, 1960, p. 4, Nov. 16, 1960, p. 5.


El Diario, Nov. 15, 1960, p. 7; La Presencia, Nov. 15, 1960, p. 4.


El Diario, Nov. 18, 1960, p. 7; La Presencia, Nov. 19, 1960, p. 7.


La Presencia, Nov. 27, 1960, p. 5.


El Diario, Nov. 30, 1960, p. 7.


ElDiario, Dec. 19, 1960, p. 4.


Ibid., Dec. 18, 1960, p. 7.


Ibid., Dec. 22, 1960, p. 7; also, La Presencia, Dec. 22, 1960, p. 5.


ElDiario, Dec. 22, 1960, p. 7.


La Presencia, Dec. 27, 1960, p. 5.


United States Army, Area Handbook for Bolivia (Washington, D.C., 1963), p. 673.


Ibid., p. 660.


United States Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, “Clandestine Arms Traffic in Latin America and the Insurgency Problem,” Confidential Research Memorandum, RAR-49 (Nov. 29, 1963), 2.


Régis Debray provides an excellent critique of the failure of the militias to defend the interests of their constituencies in “Class and Power Relations in Bolivia,” Che’s Guerrilla War, trans, by Rosemary Sheed (Harmondsworth, Eng., 1975), pp. 40-71.


United States Army, Area Handbook, p. 666.


Christopher Mitchell discusses the factional backdrop of the coup in The Legacy of Populism, pp. 78—99, and concludes: “The army’s appearance as a major political factor in the early 1960’s was due in part to continued frustration with the thankless role of social peacekeeper, ” p. 90. For a graphic presentation of the renaissance of the military institution during the 1960s, see the table in Mitchell, The Legacy of Populism, p. 91. Laurence Whitehead has found that: “It seems probable that American pressure encouraged the buildup of the army after 1960, influenced the political views taught to trainee officers, encouraged the use of the army to settle the internal power struggle, and possibly offered limited encouragement to the plans for a coup.” Whitehead, The United States and Bolivia, p. 25.

Author notes


The author, who lives in Summit, Oregon, gratefully acknowledges assistance from the Ford Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.