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05/09/2011

Lidia Gueiler, Bolivian president between coups, dies at 89

May 9, 2011 |  4:21 pm

Lidia 

Lidia Gueiler, the only woman ever to have been Bolivia's president, died Monday, her family announced in the capital of La Paz. She was 89.

Her grandson, Luis Eduardo Siles, confirmed her death in an interview with Fides radio. He didn't specify the cause but said she had been sick for weeks.

Gueiler was the second woman to lead a Latin American nation as president when she held the post for about eight months in 1979-80 between coup d'etats. Isabel Martinez de Peron, the third wife of Argentine leader Juan Peron, was that country's president in 1974-76.

In 1956, Gueiler became the first woman elected to the Bolivian legislature. As president of Congress, she followed Bolivia's constitutional line of succession and assumed the presidency in 1979 after a deadly popular revolt ousted coup leader Gen. Alberto Natusch Busch.

Gueiler called elections but no candidate won a majority to immediately become president as required by Bolivian law. Her cousin Gen. Luis Garcia Meza overthrew her 18 days after the vote, before a runoff could be held.

Garcia Meza's government lasted two years, during which it killed and imprisoned dozens of political opponents and cooperated with drug traffickers. Garcia Meza is imprisoned in Bolivia for human rights crimes.

Gueiler fled into exile after her ouster but returned from Chile in 1983.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Former Bolivian president Lidia Gueiler in a 2008 file photo. Credit: Martin Alipaz / European Pressphoto Agency

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