Wálter Guevara

Wálter Guevara Arze (March 11, 1912 in Ayopaya Province, Cochabamba Department, Bolivia – June 20, 1996 in La Paz, Bolivia) was a Bolivian statesman, cabinet minister, writer, and diplomat, who served as the 54th President of Bolivia on an interim basis in 1979.

Wálter Guevara
54th President of Bolivia
In office
8 August 1979 – 1 November 1979
Preceded byDavid Padilla
Succeeded byAlberto Natusch
Foreign Minister of Bolivia
In office
7 February 1967 – 27 October 1968
PresidentRené Barrientos
Preceded byAlberto Crespo Gutiérrez
Succeeded bySamuel Alcoreza Meneses
In office
14 November 1959 – 1 June 1960
PresidentHernán Siles Zuazo
Preceded byVíctor Andrade Uzquiano
Succeeded byCarlos Morales Guillén
In office
16 April 1952 – 23 January 1956
PresidentVíctor Paz Estenssoro
Preceded byTomás Antonio Suárez Castedo
Succeeded byManuel Barraú Peláez
Personal details
Wálter Guevara Arze

(1912-03-11)March 11, 1912
Ayopaya Province, Cochabamba Department, Bolivia
DiedJune 20, 1996(1996-06-20) (aged 84)
La Paz, Bolivia
Political partyAuthentic Revolutionary Party
Spouse(s)Lola Anaya
Rosa Elena Rodríguez Rivas

Background and earlier careerEdit

Guevara was born in Ayopaya Province, Cochabamba Department 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 Víctor Paz Estenssoro, Hernán 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 Lechín 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 Auténtico, in whose representation he ran for president in 1960, finishing second to Paz. In 1964, Guevara supported the military coup d'état that toppled the MNR from power, and once more served as Minister of Foreign Relations, this time to President René Barrientos.

The long years in exile following the establishment 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 Lechín. 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, Wálter Guevara, who was named temporary Bolivian president in August 1979 pending the calling of new elections in 1980.

President of BoliviaEdit

Guevara's tenure was short and difficult. Faced with a mounting economic and fiscal crisis, the new president declared that it might be advisable to extend his mandate by an extra year in order to allow him to confidently take the adequate measures. This was seen by many as a naked power grab and his popularity plummeted to the point that he had to resort to a purely technocratic cabinet in the absence of any congressional support. This impasse was taken advantage of by some conspiratorial members of the military, who were displeased with the fast pace, the tone, and the results of the democratic restoration.

Deposed in a bloody coupEdit

On November 1, 1979, General Alberto Natusch surprisingly toppled President Guevara in a bloody coup d'état that was resisted by the urban population. Natusch did take possession, but not without considerable bloodshed. Moreover, the citizenry continued to resist, led by a nationwide labor strike called by the powerful Central Obrera Boliviana (COB) of Juan Lechín. In the end, Natusch was able to occupy the Palacio Quemado for only sixteen days, after which he was forced to give up his quixotic struggle. The only face-saving concession he extracted from Congress was the promise that Guevara not be allowed to resume his duties as president. This condition was accepted and a new provisional president was found in the leader of the lower congressional house (the House of Deputies), Mrs. Lidia Gueiler.

Later careerEdit

Guevara, although bitter by the strange circumstances that surrounded his ousting, resumed his senatorial duties and continued to support Paz Estenssoro in subsequent elections (1980, 1985). In 1982 he was appointed Bolivian Ambassador to Venezuela. In 1989 (already quite elderly) he again ran for office, this time as vice-presidential running mate to the MNR's Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. Although they received a majority of the votes, Sanchez and Guevara did not accede to the Quemado, as Congress selected as president the third-place finisher, Jaime Paz.

Retirement and deathEdit

Guevara then retired from public life and died in La Paz on June 20, 1996.

See alsoEdit


  • Mesa José de; Gisbert, Teresa; and Carlos D. Mesa, "Historia De Bolivia."
Political offices
Preceded by
David Padilla
President of Bolivia

Succeeded by
Alberto Natusch
Preceded by
Tomás Antonio Suárez Castedo
Foreign Minister of Bolivia
Succeeded by
Manuel Barraú Peláez
Preceded by
Víctor Andrade Uzquiano
Foreign Minister of Bolivia
Succeeded by
Carlos Morales Guillén
Preceded by
Alberto Crespo Gutiérrez
Foreign Minister of Bolivia
Succeeded by
Samuel Alcoreza Meneses