Los Angeles Times
June 9, 2001

Bolivians Mourn Former President

              Associated Press Writer

                   TARIJA, Bolivia-- Even in death, Victor Paz Estenssoro narrowed Bolivia's wide gap between haves and have-nots, as
              thousands of peasants mixed with the elite Saturday to attend the funeral of Bolivia's former president.
                   Four-time president Paz Estenssoro, whose party was the driving force behind the 1952 revolution that launched agrarian reform,
              the universal right to vote and the nationalization of Bolivia's mines, died Thursday. He was 93.
                   Bolivians began arriving late Thursday to Tarija, the birthplace and place of retirement of Paz Estenssoro. They waited patiently
              until it was their turn to file through a city government building to the room holding the body of the legendary leader.
                   "Many politicians turn their backs on us," said Julio Hernan Guerrero, a 46 -year-old farmer who traveled from a village an hour
              away with 60 of his neighbors to pay their last respects. "But he was a man who truly represented the peasants."
                   Faces and dress contrasted sharply Saturday, from the high heels and elegant black dresses of the wealthy to the worn-down
              sandals and colorful, pleated skirts of the indigenous. But everyone there had one thing in common: affection for Paz Estenssoro.
                   "I never voted for him, but I have the utmost respect for him," said Jorge Quiroga, Bolivia's vice president and rival party
              member. "I never worked for him, but I admire his work. And I am not from his party, but I recognize his achievements."
                   Paz Estenssoro died of a heart attack following surgery to amputate his right leg due to a blood clot.
                   Hundreds filled the standing-room only church for the Catholic funeral as thousands of others stood in surrounding streets,
              listening to a broadcast of the hourlong service.
                   "We are here to say goodbye to the most vigorous of public servants, and the most simple of citizens," said Senator Freddy
                   En route to the cemetery, the funeral procession wound through streets packed with people waving pink flags in honor of the
              National Revolutionary Movement, the party which Paz Estenssoro founded on June 7, 1942 -exactly 59 years before his death.
                   Paz Estenssoro was Bolivia's longest-serving president, governing from 1952 -56, 1960 -65 and 1985/89. He is also widely
              remembered for initiating reforms in 1985 to save the country from hyperinflation that reached record highs of 22,000 percent per
                   The masses thickened nearing the cemetery. When they saw Paz Estenssoro's coffin, Bolivian peasants broke into the nation's
              "Victory of Revolution" song, a tune which often accompanied the man in life as well.
              Copyright 2001