Government Junta of Bolivia (1946–1947)

The Government Junta of Bolivia (Spanish: Junta de Gobierno), officially known as the Honorable Government Junta (Spanish: Excelentisima Junta de Gobierno),[1] was a civil junta which ruled Bolivia from 21 July 1946 through 10 March 1947.[2] It consisted of labor, teacher, and student representatives as well as magistrates of the Superior District Court of La Paz. The President of the Junta was Superior District Court President Tomás Monje who was appointed following the violent overthrow of President Gualberto Villarroel on 21 July 1946. As Monje was ill at the time of Villarroel's death, Néstor Guillén, the Dean of the Superior District Court, took charge for the first 27 days before delegating command to Monje on 17 August 1946. As President of the Junta, Monje acted as a neutral figure heading the transition back to civilian government. The junta was dissolved on 10 March 1947 when Enrique Hertzog, winner of the January general election, took office as president.[1]

FormationEdit

1946 coup d'étatEdit

On 21 July 1946, weeks of increasingly violent protests and strikes led by teachers and students of the Higher University of San Andrés (UMSA) resulted in full-scale riots in La Paz. President Gualberto Villarroel of the RADEPA military lodge was lynched and hanged as his government collapsed entirely. Members of the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement took refuge in foreign embassies or fled the country as conservative forces, sidelined since Villarroel's assumption to power in 1943, reasserted themselves within the country.[3]

Junta under GuillénEdit

 
Members of the early government junta including President Néstor Guillén (fourth from left) in mid-1946

A general state of anarchy coupled with a crisis of succession followed the death and hanging of President Villarroel. Once the rioting died down, it was decided that provisional command of the government would be delegated to the Superior Court of Justice of the judicial district of La Paz whose magistrates were to head an interim junta presided over by Superior District Court President Tomás Monje. As Monje was ill and hence unable to assume leadership at the time, Superior District Court Dean Néstor Guillén was chosen to chair the junta in an interim capacity.[4] Guillén was joined by five other court judges: Cleto Cabrera García, Juan Armaza Ribert, Carlos Pacheco Núñez, Pacífico Ledezma, and Daniel Guisbert.[2]

On 22 July, participation in the junta was expanded to other sectors and the number of members was reduced. All district court judges except Guillén and Cabrera García stepped down while Carlos Montaño Daza and Raúl Calvimontes joined, the latter as secretary-general.[2] Immediately on 23 July, the junta published an eleven-point statement of intent. Among the first points was the commitment to respect domestic civil liberties as well as international agreements with other countries.[5] The junta also pledged to call fresh, democratic presidential and legislative elections within three to four months.[6] Having deemed the confiscation of newspapers by the previous government unconstitutional, the junta announced its intent to return these to their owners.[5] By that point, the process had already begun with the newspaper La Razón having been returned to its publisher on 21 July. El Diaro became the first newspaper to return to daily circulation on 22 July.[7] Further, all government offices were officially reopened at 2 p.m. on 23 July.[5]

That same day, at the direct order of Guillén, UMSA Rector Héctor Ormachea met with United States Ambassador Joseph Flack. Ormachea outlined the junta's intent to issue three decrees which would define the new government as one of "institutions not of men". The 1938 Constitution (including modifications made by the Constituent Assembly in 1945) was to be respected, the call for new elections was reiterated, and broad amnesty for all those implicated in the previous days events was declared.[8]

Finally on 24 July, representatives of the workers, students, and teachers were admitted into the junta.[2] Officially, all important decisions were to be decided as a unified body and no cabinet was officially formed, though de facto the members of the junta were all assigned various ministerial portfolios.[7][9] Representing the UMSA was Luis Gosalvez Indaburu as minister of finance while Dr. Aniceto Solares represented the teachers as minister of education and foreign affairs. Aurelio Alcoba, the Secretary-General of the Trade Union Confederation of Bolivian Workers, was appointed to represent organized labor as minister of work.[6] Cabrera García was to occupy the ministry of government while Guillén, along with being president of the junta, would be the minister of defense. A third unnamed judge was intended to occupy the agriculture and public works portfolios though ultimately those offices were assigned to Guillén and Cabrera García respectively.[10][9] The lawyer and professor Roberto Bilbao la Vieja was also appointed as a member of the junta, later becoming its secretary-general on 6 August.[11]

Junta under MonjeEdit

 
President Tomás Monje (center) with other members of the junta in late 1946

Néstor Guillén's 27-day mandate ended on 17 August 1946 when Tomás Monje arrived to chair the junta. On 26 August, Monje formed a ministerial cabinet separate from the government junta. The judges Guillén and Cabrera García stepped down. Gosalvez Indaburu was replaced as minister of finance by Eduardo Saenz García but remained a member of the junta.[2] Solares and Alcoba maintained their positions on the junta as well as their ministerial offices.[10]

 
The body of one of the victims of the riot hanging on a Plaza Murillo lamppost

27 September riotEdit

Just over a month into Monje's mandate, an incident occurred which highlighted the still tense political climate of the time. On 27 September, a disgruntled and visibly mentally disturbed[12] retired army lieutenant by the name of Luis Oblitas entered the Palacio Quemado seeking an audience with the president in order to request his reinstatement in the ranks of the armed forces. After waiting unattended in the anteroom for some time, Oblitas stormed into the president's office where Monje was with his public works minister Carlos Muñóz Roldán and demanded that his request be immediately heard.[13] After clubbing the president's secretary,[14] the officer levelled his gun at Monje shouting either "Now, I will be president! Because I have the conditions to be!"[13] or "I'm going to be president".[14] Reportedly showing no fear,[12] Monje confronted the officer and challenged him to "Fire," unbuttoning his vest and spreading his arms while also stating that "I am here by the will of the people".[14] Oblitas was then disarmed by palace guards and taken into custody at the panopticon of San Pedro.[12]

 
The lynching of one of the officers in the Plaza Murillo
 
The members of the junta in 1947

Once local press reported news of the attempt on the president's life, a crowd began to gather at the Plaza Murillo which soon swelled to some 80,000 people.[14] Eventually, rumors that the incident had been a conspiracy by the RADEPA and MNR to regain power caused the crowd to grow agitated leading to a mob forcing their way into the prison. Oblitas was dragged out of his cell and into the plaza where he was shot dead by Carlos Meyer before being hung on one of the lampposts in a manner similar to the fates suffered by Villarroel and others just months prior.[13] Unsatisfied, the mob then turned their attention to Captain José Escobar and Major Jorge Eguino who were also imprisoned in the panopticon awaiting trial for their role in the 1944 Chuspipata massacre during the Villarroel regime.[15][16] Eguino and Escobar, who at the time was with his six-year-old son, were beaten and dragged to the Plaza Murillo. Escobar, who at that point was already dead or dying, was the first of the two to be hanged. Eguino, however, first requested a Confessor, a Coca-Cola,[14] and time to make denunciations. The first two requests, but not the third, were granted and Eguino was then also hanged. However, when the rope was cut it was found that Eguino was still alive and he was instead shot twice before his corpse was re-hoisted onto another lamppost.[13]

Though Monje attempted to calm the mob from the palace balcony stating that "my life is unimportant,"[14] his calls were ignored and the crowd turned its attention to the embassies where many members of the previous government had taken refuge.[17] At that moment however, a weather event occurred which the writer Luis Antezana Ergueta described: "Another terrifying thunder, and another right away. Suddenly, the sky was powerfully illuminated with an electric blue discharge and from the clouds that collided at less than a thousand meters high, a powerful beam zigzagged towards the plaza of the hanged and rushed in the middle of the place where the immolated ones hung on that date. The crowd began to flee everywhere. The divine sword of lightning fell exactly in the middle of the three corpses that, like sinister pendulums, appeared hanging from the lanterns [...]"[12] The lightning caused city lights to go out for 10 to 15 seconds and caused the superstitious crowd to panic and disperse amid cries claiming that "The voice of God—it is God punishing us".[14]

General electionsEdit

Shortly after the riot on 15 October 1946, Monje promulgated Supreme Decree No. 579 which called for general elections to be held on 5 January 1947.[18] On the date of the election, Enrique Hertzog of the Republican Socialist Unity Party narrowly defeated the Liberal Luis Fernando Guachalla by margin of just 443 votes.[19] The elected National Congress was set to formally meet on 2 March while the inauguration of the elected president was set for 10 March.[20] On that date, the Honorable Government Junta ceased to exist and the mandate of Tomás Monje came to an end. While Monje retired from public life, Néstor Guillén briefly served as Minister of Defense in the Cabinet of Enrique Hertzog before also retiring.[21]

MembersEdit

Junta President
Néstor Guillén,
from 21 July 1946
Tomás Monje,
from 17 August 1946
Secretary-General
 
Honorable Government Junta of Bolivia
1946–1947
Members of the Superior Court of Justice of the judicial district of La Paz
Office Member Party Position Term Days
President Néstor Guillén Ind. Superior District
Court Dean
21 July 1946 – 22 July 1946 1
Magistrate Cleto Cabrera García Ind. Superior District
Court Judge
21 July 1946 – 22 July 1946 1
Juan Armaza Ribert Ind. 21 July 1946 – 22 July 1946 1
Carlos Pacheco Núñez Ind. 21 July 1946 – 22 July 1946 1
Pacífico Ledezma Ind. 21 July 1946 – 22 July 1946 1
Daniel Guisbert Ind. 21 July 1946 – 22 July 1946 1
Members of the Government Junta
Office Member Party Representing Term Days
President Néstor Guillén Ind. Superior District
Court Dean
22 July 1946 – 24 July 1946 2
Magistrate Cleto Cabrera García Ind. Superior District
Court of La Paz
22 July 1946 – 24 July 1946 2
Secretary-General
of the Junta
Raúl Calvimontes Civilian sector 22 July 1946 – 24 July 1946 2
None Carlos Montaño Daza 22 July 1946 – 24 July 1946 2
Members of the provisonal Government Junta
Office Member Party Representing Term Days
President Néstor Guillén Ind. Superior District
Court Dean
24 July 1946 – 17 August 1946 24
Tomás Monje Ind. Superior District
Court President
17 August 1946 – 10 March 1947 205
None Roberto Bilbao la Vieja Civilian sector 24 July 1946 – 6 August 1946 13
Secretary-General
of the Junta
6 August 1946 – 10 March 1947 216
Minister of
Government
Minister of
Public Works
Cleto Cabrera García Ind. Superior District
Court of La Paz
24 July 1946 – 26 August 1946 33
Minister of
Defense
Minister of
Agriculture
Néstor Guillén Ind. 24 July 1946 – 26 August 1946 33
Minister of Finance Luis Gosalvez Indaburu Higher University
of San Andrés
24 July 1946 – 26 August 1946 33
None 26 August 1946 – 10 March 1947 196
Minister of Education Aniceto Solares PRG Teachers' Confederation 24 July 1946 – 26 August 1946 33
Minister of Foreign Affairs 24 July 1946 – 7 March 1947 226
Minister of Work Aurelio Alcoba PIR Trade Union Confederation
of Bolivian Workers
24 July 1946 – 10 March 1947 229

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Bolivia: Ley de 8 de marzo de 1947". www.lexivox.org. Retrieved 13 April 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gisbert 2003, pp. 271
  3. ^ capuchainformativa_ecmn0t (22 July 2020). "Bolivia │ Así cayó Villarroel: Miradas de la revuelta del 21 de julio de 1946". Capucha Informativa (in Spanish). Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  4. ^ Gisbert 2003, pp. 654–656
  5. ^ a b c "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, The American Republics, Volume XI - Office of the Historian". history.state.gov. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b "Diary of a Successful Revolution" (PDF). The Foreign Service Journal: 56. 21 July 1946.
  7. ^ a b "Diary of a Successful Revolution" (PDF). The Foreign Service Journal: 58. 21 July 1946.
  8. ^ "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, The American Republics, Volume XI - Office of the Historian". history.state.gov. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  9. ^ a b "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, The American Republics, Volume XI - Office of the Historian". history.state.gov. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  10. ^ a b Gisbert 2003, pp. 346–349
  11. ^ "canciller". 6 December 2015. Archived from the original on 6 December 2015. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d "Bolivia - 1947 -70 años- A la sombra de los colgados: La ascensión presidencial de Hertzog y Urriolagoitia – El principio del fin del viejo orden". Oxígeno Digital (in Spanish). Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d ""Ahora, yo seré Presidente de Bolivia"". www.eldiario.net (in Spanish). Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g "BOLIVIA: The Lampposts of La Paz". Time. 7 October 1946. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  15. ^ "BOLIVIAN CONFESSES KIDNAPPING IN 1944". The New York Times. 28 July 1946. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  16. ^ "La Junta de Gobierno. Gobierno de Monje 1946-1947". www.educa.com.bo (in Spanish). 19 November 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  17. ^ "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, The American Republics, Volume XI - Office of the Historian". history.state.gov. Retrieved 15 April 2021.
  18. ^ "DECRETO SUPREMO No 579 del 15 de Octubre de 1946 » Derechoteca.com". www.derechoteca.com. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  19. ^ Gisbert 2003, pp. 148
  20. ^ "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1946, The American Republics, Volume XI - Office of the Historian". history.state.gov. Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  21. ^ Gisbert 2003, pp. 348–351

BibliographyEdit