Celso Torrelio Villa was a military general, a member of the Junta of Commanders of the Armed Forces (1981), and de facto President of Bolivia between September 1981 and August 1982.
A native of Padilla, department of Chuquisaca, Torrelio joined the Bolivian Army and rose to the rank of general. He served as the notorious dictator Luis Garcia Meza's Minister of Interior after the departure (forced by Washington) of the equally infamous Colonel Luis Arce. The Garcia Meza regime became internationally known for its extreme brutality. Some 1,000 people are estimated to have been killed by the Bolivian army and security forces between July 1980 and August 1981. In addition, the Garcia Meza government was deeply involved in drug trafficking activities, and may have come to power financed directly by the drug cartels. This led to the complete isolation of the regime. Even the new, conservative U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, kept its distance and seemed to prefer better options. Eventually, the international outcry was sufficiently strong to force Garcia Meza's resignation on August 3, 1981. The high command of the Military of Bolivia at that point entrusted General Celso Torrelio with the presidency.
Although the military's idea was to replace the polarizing Garcia Meza with a less controversial and more acceptable leader equally as committed to the principles of the anti-communist National Security Doctrine, their plan did not come to fruition. The regime continued to be shunned internationally, and despised domestically. Furthermore, a very grave economic crisis loomed on the horizon, the result of years of mismanagement, a global recession, and the onset of the so-called Latin American debt crisis. Faced with the choices of mounting a fresh repressive campaign to re-equilibrate the reeling regime (with the increased international isolation such a move would entail) or call elections, the high command chose the latter. In July 1982, General Torrelio was replaced with General Guido Vildoso, who was charged with returning the country to democratic rule. Torrelio then retired and did not return to play any role in Bolivian politics.
Obituary from The Independent
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