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Walter Guevara


Walter Guevara Arze was a Bolivian statesman, cabinet minister, writer, diplomat, and, rather briefly, president (1979).

Guevara was born in Cochabamba on March 11, 1912. Trained as a lawyer and economist, he studied in the United States. He co-founded the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR) in 1941, alongside Victor Paz Estenssoro, Hernan Siles, and others. When the MNR came to power following the 1952 Bolivian Revolution, Guevara served as minister of foreign relations in the cabinet of President Paz Estenssoro (1952-56). He was then appointed Minister of Interior by President Siles (1956-60). Often seen as the third-highest leader in the MNR hierarchy (after Paz and Siles), the relatively conservative Guevara clashed repeatedly on ideological grounds with Juan Lechin and others associated with the Left wing of the party. Fully expecting to be the party's official candidate for president in 1960, he left it abruptly to form his own political organization when Paz Estenssoro decided to return to Bolivia and run for re-election. The party Guevara founded was the Partido Revolucionario Autentico, in whose representation he ran for president in 1960, finishing second to Paz. In 1964, Guevara supported the military coup d'etat that toppled the MNR from power, and once more served as Minister of Foreign Relations, this time to President Rene Barrientos.

The long years in exile following the establishent of the 1971-78 dictatorship of General Hugo Banzer brought Guevara closer to the main body of the MNR, by now divested of its more left-leaning elements, including Siles and Lechin. When democratic elections were at long last called again in 1978, Guevara ran as Paz Estenssoro's vice-presidential running mate. Their ticket finished second. When that electoral contest was annulled due to evidence of fraud, a second one was held a year later. Guevara this time did not run on the main formula, but was elected Senator in representation of the MNR alliance. Soon, he was proclaimed President of the Senate by his peers. Since no presidential candidate in the 1979 elections had received the necessary 50% of the vote, it fell to Congress to decide who should be first executive. To the surprise of many, it could not agree on any candidate, no matter how many votes were taken. Positions hardened, and no solution seemed possible, until an alternative was offered in the form of the President of the Senate, Walter Guevara, who was named temporary Bolivian president in August 1979 pending the calling of new elections in 1980.

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