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May 5, 2008

Wikipedia: Carlos Mesa

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Carlos Diego Mesa Gisbert
Carlos Mesa

78th President of Bolivia
In office
October 17, 2003 – June 6, 2005
Preceded by Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada
Succeeded by Eduardo Rodríguez

Born August 12, 1953 (1953-08-12) (age 54)
La Paz, Bolivia
Nationality bolivian
Political party no party affiliation
Spouse Elvira Salinas de Mesa

Carlos Diego Mesa Gisbert (born August 12, 1953) is a Bolivian politician, historian and President of Bolivia from October 17, 2003 until his resignation on June 6, 2005.

Mesa was a popular television journalist and personality, known by many for his rectitude and impartiality but loathed by many others for alleged political opportunism. His widespread name recognition prompted the MNR candidate Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to pick him as his running mate in the 2002 Bolivian presidential elections. The winning ticket of Sánchez-Mesa took possession on August 6, 2002. As Vice-President, the apolitical Mesa was quickly caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, as a wave of protests and strikes shut down Bolivia in a bitter dispute known as the Bolivian Gas War. The demonstrations eventually forced Sánchez de Lozada to resign and flee the country, leaving Mesa as President of the Republic.



In the short year and a half since assuming office, Mesa found himself also under extreme internal and external political pressures over the use of Bolivia’s 1.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, estimated to be worth billions of dollars (USD).

After a resurgence of Gas protests in 2005, he attempted to resign in January 2005, but his offer was refused by Congress. On March 22, 2005, after weeks of new street protests from organizations accusing Mesa of bowing to U.S. corporate interests, Mesa again offered his resignation to Congress, which was accepted on June 10. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodríguez, was sworn as interim president to succeed the outgoing Carlos Mesa.

Carlos Mesa had been Vice-President since August 6, 2002. In that capacity, he was also the head of the Bolivian Congress.

As noted, Mesa was, prior to entering the political arena, a historian and journalist in radio, television and newspapers. He is a member of the Bolivian History Academy, and co-wrote (along with his parents, themselves noted scholars and professionals) an interesting and relatively exhaustive compendium of Bolivian history since the coming of the Spaniards to the close of the millennium.

Despite his lack of experience in the political arena, Mesa’s star rose quickly in the Sánchez de Lozada administration. In September 2003, he was invited to address the UN General Assembly, where he warned:

Democracy is in danger in Bolivia as the result of legitimate pressures from the poor. We cannot generate economic growth and well-being for a few and then expect that the large majorities that are excluded will watch silently and patiently. We poor countries demand that our products be admitted into the markets of rich countries in adequate conditions. [1]

As the gas conflict escalated, Mesa became increasingly unhappy with the government’s heavy-handed suppression of the protests, which left over 80 people dead. He withdrew his support for Sánchez de Lozada several days before the latter’s resignation, saying: “I cannot continue to support the situation we are living through.” Some speculated that Mesa had personal reasons to adopt this posture, as it opened the way to his succeeding Sánchez de Lozada as president. However, it also placed him at the center of extreme political pressures – from both internal Bolivian and external foreign interests – regarding the use of Bolivia’s natural gas reserves. Bolivia’s next presidential elections were scheduled for 2007, but Mesa was quick to point out that his administration was transitional and that he did not intend to complete Sánchez de Lozada’s term in office.

Carlos Mesa at the OAS in September 2003

Carlos Mesa at the OAS in September 2003

Mesa eventually changed his mind and decided to try to finish his constitutional term. results; the referendum posed what were widely perceived to be vague and overly complicated questions. (See: Bolivian gas referendum, 2004.) In addition, in March 2004 he announced that his government would hold a series of rallies around the country, and at its embassies abroad, demanding that Chile return to Bolivia a stretch of seacoast that the country lost in 1884 after the end of the War of the Pacific. Chile has traditionally refused to negotiate on the issue, but Mesa nonetheless made this policy a central point of his administration.

Following protests, he tended his resignation to Congress on March 22, 2005; however, the legislators voted almost unanimously the next day to reject his offer. Still, domestic tensions between the poor and rural eastern highlands and the wealthier cities and oil-rich south continued to rise. Weeks of escalating street demonstrations and widening disorder reached a peak in June of 2005, as tens of thousands of protesters marched into La Paz. Aware of his growing incapacity to control or influence events without resorting to violence, Mesa once more tended his resignation to Congress. This time, Congress accepted his offer. The presidents of the two national legislative chambers at that point abdicated their constitutional powers in favor of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and new president of Bolivia, Eduardo Rodríguez. He was charged with the duty of swiftly organizing national elections, which led to the massive victory of MAS candidate Evo Morales in December 2005.

Since the possession of Evo Morales, rumors began to abound about serious efforts being made to bring Carlos Mesa to trial for a number of alleged misdeeds, including responsibility for the deaths of protesters, both under his administration and that of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (with whom he served as Vice-President); for economic mismanagement; and even for having mulled a “self-coup” in order to temporarily suspend constitutional rights and bring order to the country with the help of the military. While many of these accusations seem to be mere acts of naked political vendetta (a feature of Bolivian politics practically since the country’s creation), something may come of them yet, as animosity toward the Sánchez de Lozada/Mesa administrations appears to be widespread within the current government elites led by President Morales.


  • Cine boliviano, del realizador al crítico (co-author, 1979)
  • El cine boliviano según Luis Espinal (1982)
  • “El Vano de la vida incansable” (co-author, 1999)

See also

  • List of presidents of Bolivia
  • History of Bolivia
  • Politics of Bolivia

Preceded by
Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada
President of Bolivia
Succeeded by
Eduardo Rodríguez
Preceded by
Jorge Quiroga
Vice President of Bolivia
Succeeded by
Álvaro García Linera
This text comes from Wikipedia. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. For a complete list of contributors for this article, visit the corresponding history entry on Wikipedia.

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