Hugo Banzer

Died May 5th, 2002

Hugo Banzer, Bolivia's dictator turned democrat, dead at 75
Sun May 5, 8:10 PM ET
By VANESSA ARRINGTON, Associated Press Writer

LA PAZ, Bolivia - Former President Hugo Banzer, a one-time dictator who led Bolivia to democracy and helped wipe out cocaine production, died of a heart attack at age 75.

He died Sunday morning surrounded by his family in Santa Cruz, a tropical city in eastern Bolivia, after waking up in pain around midnight, said his doctor, Freddy Terrazas.

The two-time president, who was forced by cancer to resign from office last August, is likely to be remembered both fondly and with distaste. Supporters say he did more to strengthen Bolivian democracy than any of his predecessors and his efforts to sharply reducing coca cultivation won him praise in Washington. Critics, however, contend the former dictator never lost his authoritarian streak, continuing to abuse human rights and failing to help the Andean nation's poor, Indian majority even as an elected leader.

"Hugo Banzer was the leader of the Nationalist Democratic Action party, but he ended up being much more than that," a teary-eyed Jorge Quiroga, Bolivia's president, said Sunday. "He ended up being an example for all Bolivians, and for democracy in all of the country."

Picked by Drunk-as-a-Skunk.