Revolutionary Nationalist Movement

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Revolutionary Nationalist Movement
Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario
President Guillermo Bedregal Gutiérrez
Founder Víctor Paz Estenssoro
Founded June 7, 1942; 75 years ago (1942-06-07)
Headquarters La Paz, Bolivia
Ideology Nationalism
Political position Centre
National affiliation PPB-CN
Continental affiliation COPPPAL
International affiliation None
Colours      Pink
Chamber of Deputies
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The Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (Spanish: Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario About this sound listen , MNR) is a Bolivian political party and the leading force behind the Bolivian National Revolution. It influenced much of the country's history since 1941.


The Revolutionary Nationalist Movement was begun in 1941 by future presidents Víctor Paz Estenssoro and Hernán Siles Zuazo. It soon attracted some of the brightest members of the Bolivian intelligentsia. Among the party's most prominent supporters are historic figures such as Humberto Guzmán Fricke, Juan Lechín, Carlos Montenegro, Walter Guevara Arze, Javier del Granado, Augusto Céspedes, Lydia Gueiler, Guillermo Bedregal, and Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, a number of whom later became presidents of Bolivia.

At the time of its establishment it was a leftist/reformist party, along the lines of similar Latin American parties such as the Dominican Revolutionary Party, Democratic Action in Venezuela, and the Peruvian Aprista Party. The MNR first came to power in 1943, as supporters of the reformist military regime of Gualberto Villarroel. It was at the time tainted by the alleged pro-fascist sympathies of various of its leaders, as the United States (then at war with the Axis) demanded that MNR members be removed from the Villarroel government in exchange for official diplomatic recognition.

Bolivian National Revolution[edit]

The Revolutionary Nationalist Movement led the leftist Bolivian National Revolution of 1952 and ruled the country until 1964 when it was overthrown by the military coup of René Barrientos. During the presidencies of Paz Estenssoro (1952–56 and 1960–64) and Hernán Siles Zuazo (1956–60) were the top leaders of the Revolutionary period, establishing the universal vote, nationalizing the tin mines, and instituting an extensive agrarian reform. During this time many of the old elitist parties which had previously dominated Bolivian politics either disappeared or faded into irrelevance. This left the MNR in the center of the Bolivian political spectrum.

Siles and Paz split in the 1960s over Paz's ambitions and personal control of the party. Filled with many strong personalities, the party had in fact begun to fragment along political and personal lines since the late 1950s, with Wálter Guevara being the first to leave and the popular Juan Lechín being expelled in 1964. Siles went on to form the Revolutionary Nationalist Leftwing Movement (MNRI) and Lechín the Revolutionary Party of the Nationalist Left (PRIN).

Further splits and return to democracy[edit]

Falling from power only deepened the intra-party squabbles. With the main body of the MNR firmly behind Paz Estenssoro, the old leader made what can be seen as a major mistake in 1971, when he supported the coup d'état of Hugo Banzer Suárez. He apparently believed that Banzer would only rule for a year or two before calling elections that the MNR would almost certainly win. If so, he badly miscalculated; Banzer exiled Paz in 1975. The main body supported Paz in exile, while a faction continued to back Banzer.

Paz' support of the Banzer dictatorship as a move that was to cost his party dearly at the polls in subsequent years. While Paz seemed to be moving steadily to the right, Siles Zuazo broke off to found the left-leaning MNRI in 1971. Indeed, Siles was the post-MNR politician who was best able to capitalize on the remaining legitimacy and respect that MNR had as a result of the 1952 Revolution. Paz Estenssoro led the MNR-proper in the Bolivian general elections of 1978, 1979, and 1980 elections, finishing third, second, and second, respectively.

Shift to neoliberalism[edit]

Estenssoro was finally elected president (for the 4th time) in 1985, and served until 1989, when he retired from politics. By this time the party had moved sharply to the right and now advocated neoliberal economic policies. Under Paz, important economic reforms designed to curb hyperinflation were instituted, the labor unions were repressed, and 30,000 miners were fired from state payrolls as a result of the collapse of global tin prices. The painful readjustment policies adopted by the elderly Paz and his vigorous Minister of Planning, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, came to be known as the New Economic Policy (NEP), and restructured the bulk of the hitherto statist and now neoliberal Bolivian economy.

Led by Sánchez de Lozada, the MNR won the 1993 elections and Sanchez was confirmed as president by parliament. He continued the policies of the NEP. The party placed second in 1997 elections, with the presidential candidate Juan Carlos Durán (at the time, the Bolivian constitution prohibited direct re-election of a sitting president) losing to the former dictator Banzer.

At the legislative elections 2002 MNR in alliance with Free Bolivia Movement, won 26.9% of the popular vote and 36 out of 130 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 11 out of 27 in the Senate. Following these elections, because no presidential candidate had received a majority, the Congress chose the President, and they again elected Sánchez de Lozada. After the 2002 elections, the party ruled in a coalition with the Revolutionary Left Movement. In 2003 Sanchez was forced to resign, and his successor, independent candidate Carlos Mesa took over in hopes of promoting national unity in the face of nationwide protests. Mesa soon resigned and presidential elections were scheduled for December 2005. In these elections MNR received only 6.5% of the popular vote and won 7 out of 130 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 1 out of 27 seats in the Senate. Its candidate in the presidential elections was Michiaki Nagatani, whose poor performance demonstrated a steep decline in the fortunes of the party as the Bolivian political scene began to be dominated by Evo Morales.

For the 2009 elections, the MNR was a component of the Plan Progress for Bolivia – National Convergence. That grouping dissolved in 2013. The party's future is uncertain as it is no longer represented in the parliament and its last government has been tarnished by serious accusations of corruption, economic mismanagement and armed suppression of protesters.

The Revolutionary Nationalist Movement currently is led by Guillermo Bedregal Gutiérrez.

External links[edit]