Reports out Bolivia's capital La Paz are confusing as two rival military factions vie for control of the country following the resignation of President Alfredo Ovando Candia on Sunday (October 4).
Reports out Bolivia's capital La Paz are confusing as two rival military factions vie for control of the country following the resignation of President Alfredo Ovando Candia on Sunday (October 4). At Army headquarters, the Commander-in-Chief, General Rogelio Miranda, held a press conference to explain why he and his right-wing supporters had asked for the President's resignation. At the same time, however, the Army's former C-in-C, General Juan Jose Torres, and his left-wing supporters took temporary possession of the Presidential Palace and proclaimed a "loyalist" military government.
General Miranda's faction-with himself at the head of a three-man Junta government-said that they had taken over because President Ovando had refused to allow the country to return to normal by calling elections-which they intended to do right away. The President-who himself came power in September 1969 when he staged a bloodless coup after yielding considerable power in the Government for several years as Bolivia's Army Commander-in-Chief-is today said to have taken refuge in the Argentine Embassy and been granted political asylum in Argentina.
Last May, President Ovando was reported to have given way to certain right-wing pressures and made sweeping Cabinet changes-and among the early casualties was Army C-in-C Torres and two other moderate leftists. The three had been a powerful force behind the nationalisation of the U.S.-owned Bolivian Gulf Oil Company and their dismissals caused wide-spread left-wing uproar and street rioting. Then, last month the Government announced it would be paying 78 million dollars (about 32 million pounds sterling) compensation to Gulf-and rioting once more broke out across the country in protest. The riots, in which six persons died, fostered the revolt by Gen. Miranda and his right-wing supporters (many of them young Army officers) who accused President Ovando of inability to keep order and a lack of political policy.
Reports late tonight (Tuesday) said that the Air Force-loyal to General Torres-was strafing the Presidential Palace, which had been taken over by the followers of General Miranda.