José Manuel Pando
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José Manuel Inocencio Pando Solares (27 December 1849 – 17 June 1917) was President of Bolivia between October 1899 and August 1904. Born in Luribay (Department of La Paz), he studied medicine, joined the army during the War of the Pacific against Chile (1879–80), and later dedicated himself to exploring his country's vast and thinly populated lowland forests. In the 1880s he joined the Liberal Party of Eliodoro Camacho (in opposition until 1899), becoming its leader in 1894. Pando served as Congressional Representative from Chuquisaca during the administration of Severo Fernández (1896–99) and was the nucleus around which coalesced the increasingly more vocal and seditious efforts of the Liberal Party to topple the Conservatives from power.
Civil War finally erupted in 1899, under the guise of a regional dispute regarding whether Sucre should continue to be the capital of the country or the latter should be moved to La Paz. At this point, Pando's Liberals rallied around the movement to declare La Paz the capital and gathered considerable popular support behind the idea of turning hitherto unitary Bolivia into a federal republic. An undeniable fatigue of the populace against the Conservatives, who had monopolized power (often by means of electoral fraud) since 1884, was also probably a deciding factor in the upcoming denouement. After routing the Conservatives at the Battle of the Second Crucero, fought in Oruro province and quaintly pitting forces led directly by Pando (the Liberals/Federalists) against President Fernández, Pando became President. He did so first as member of a transitional Liberal Junta and then as sole leader when a hastily convened Congress (1900) named him Constitutional President with a full 4-year term. This kicked-off a period of 20-plus years of Liberal domination in Bolivian politics.
Pando's first task was to pacify the country in the wake of the bloody 1899 Revolution, which included the repression of the indigenous rural populations of La Paz and Oruro that had been previously mobilized to fight alongside the Liberal forces, essentially as useful cannon fodder. This done, the President tackled the thorny issue of determining the national capital and settling the federal issue. At the time, La Paz was clearly the largest and most powerful city in the country, but Sucre had the legal titles and the tradition. Rather deftly, Pando acquiesced to making La Paz the permanent seat of the Bolivian government but retained Sucre's status as the official capital, thus sparing everyone's feelings.
Despite the eruption of the brief Acre War against Brazil in 1903, in which Bolivia lost considerable but almost depopulated territory in its Northern frontier, Pando's term was as a whole rather peaceful, as he proved to be a popular leader. The main Liberal plank was not too different from that of the Conservatives in that it was pro-free trade and elitist (native Bolivians did not have the vote and hardly participated in the political affairs of the nation at all). On the other hand, some concessions were made to the masses, including the institution of a modest program of education for Indians. Also, the new party in power established freedom of religion and recognized civil marriages, fostering some friction with the Catholic Church. In 1904, he transferred the Presidential sash to Ismael Montes, also of the Liberal Party, elected in that year's presidential elections.
Despite the emergence of Montes as the new "caudillo" of the Liberal Party, Pando remained universally respected—and increasingly critical of Montes and his efforts to perpetuate himself at the head of the movement. He was especially unhappy with Montes' alleged manipulation of the 1908 elections (which he annulled) and his re-election and return to power for the 1913-17 period. In 1915, Pando and a number of discontented Liberals and former Conservatives formed the Republican Party. It would be at first severely repressed by Montes and his successor, José Gutiérrez, but would eventually come to power in 1920. Pando saw none of this, however, for he was assassinated near La Paz in June 1917- he was 67 years old. His murder was never fully clarified, but it was largely attributed to the governing (Liberal) elites associated with Montes and Gutiérrez, only increasing the appeal of the Republicans.
|President of Bolivia