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Aniceto Arce


Aniceto Arce Ruiz (18241906) was President of Bolivia from 1888 until 1892. The Aniceto Arce Province is named after him. Arce was a native of Tarija but was educated as a lawyer and resided most of his life in Sucre, where he became one of the country's foremost silver-mining tycoons. A supporter of Linares and Constitutionalist government, he later served in Congress during the 1870s until the time of the Daza dictatorship.

Unlike other capable leaders of his day, Arce did not enlist to serve when the War of the Pacific developed in 1879. Indeed, his became one of the most accommodationist voices in the political spectrum, perhaps as a result of his extensive business connections to Chile, where he sold much of his silver, invested his profits, and sought financing for his projects. His position was that the Litoral was, for various lamentable reasons, largely indefensible. Thus, the country should cut its losses and seek an alliance with Chile rather than with Peru. Despite this minority position, what ringed more clearly in the ears of most Bolivians was Arce's steadfast call for the establishment of a conservative democratic order, with the primacy of law, regular elections, and rule by enlightened pro-business elites such as himself. To this end, he founded the Conservative Party, participated as one of the principals in the 1880 Congress that toppled Hilarion Daza, and had a role in the drafting of the country's new Constitution. Moreover, he agreed to become Narciso Campero's vice-president for the crucial, nation-building 1880-84 period.

Early on, however, vice-president Arce's pro-Chile stance clashed with those of the patriotic President and retired General, who favored rearmament and a sustained diplomatic offensive against Chile, perhaps leading to a mediation of the conflict and if not, to a reinsertions of Bolivian troops in Peru's aid. Arce, as explained, favored a "realistic" policy of recognition that Bolivia had indeed lost its access to the Pacific, and that the best that could be done was to reach a modus vivendi with Santiago (which had the upper hand), even if this meant abandoning the hitherto sacrosanct alliance with Lima. President Campero took this to be a sign of treason and in 1881 expelled Arce, his own vice-president until then, to exile.

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