On 4 November 1964, a military junta led by General René Barrientos overthrew Victor Paz as the president of Bolivia. Paz’s fall from power ended twelve years of government by the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR)—one of the major Latin American revolutions of the twentieth century.
Paz had won re-election eight months earlier with little opposition. Starting his third four-year term, it seemed he would continue his party’s rule. Instead, the re-election signaled the beginning of the end for the revolutionary regime. The plot was planned and executed primarily by the armed forces, which had had the support of Paz and had been rebuilt with the assistance of the United States. The armed opposition, the civilian militia, once feared by Army leaders, was now poorly trained and armed and could offer little resistance. The coup was a success and the ex-president was escorted to the airport to begin his exile.
What caused the fall of the reformist MNR and Paz? Most Bolivian specialists attribute its demise primarily to fissures within the MNR political structure. Robert Alexander notes that before Paz’s presidential election campaign the major figures within the MNR had broken with Paz or had been forced to leave the country. Juan Lechín, the leader of the MNR left, formed his own party, the Partido Revolucionario de la Izquierda Nacionalista—PRIN. Hernán Siles, the president from 1956-1960, was forced into exile for his open opposition to Paz. 1 Christopher Mitchell concurs with Alexander, but adds that the coup could be traced to the MNR economic austerity measures of 1956, which alienated the MNR’s main basis of support, the urban middle classes, and caused them to turn to the military as their primary spokesman. 2 James Dunkerley points out that rural