Juan Pereda Asbun (1931) is a former military general and de facto president of Bolivia (1978). Although he ruled for only four months, his ascent to the presidency marked the beginning of the most unstable period in Bolivian history, with nine presidents in a little over 4 years (1978-1982), in comparison to only one in the previous seven.
Born in La Paz on June 17, 1931, Pereda joined the Bolivian armed forces, later becoming part of its nascent Air Force. He led the Military Aviation School and was subsequently appointed Air Force Commander. He served in the dictatorship of Hugo Banzer (1971-78) as Minister of Industry and, in the late 1970s, as Minister of Interior, perhaps the most powerful post in the regime after Banzer himself.
When in 1978 the then-dictator decided to call elections after 7 years as de facto leader, he chose General Pereda to run as his surrogate, since the Bolivian constitution does not allow the election of an incumbent president. It was assumed that Pereda would be elected with government "help" at the polls, rule for four years, and then allow Banzer to return as constitutional president once he had time to polish up his image and transition to civilian politics. Apparently, Banzer had second thoughts, for by election time the left-wing coalition of former president Hernan Siles (UDP) was far and away the most popular formula, and little could be done to deny it. Still, massive election fraud was committed and Pereda was declared the winner - until protests paralyzed the country and independent organizations agreed that all exit polls indicated a result quite different from what was being purported. At this point, Banzer annulled the elections, denounced the electoral fraud, and disassociated himself from it altogether, basically blaming Pereda and his closest supporters. He declared he would call elections again within a year or two.
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