Bolivia 1945, trying and failing to get to honor, work and law from strike, coup and revolution

A leader tries to celebrate honor, work and law but ends up thrown off a balcony and hung from a lamppost. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.

Cellebrating a coup is a dangerous thing to do on a stamp. There are rare times when a coup can remove an off track government and things can return to normal. More commonly it is a reflection of chaos and desperation. Mob rule, and the mob can turn in an instant. Perhaps a depiction of an angry mob to warn the government would have been a better stamp. Postal authorities just don’t design that type of stamp.

The stamp today is issue A115, a 90 centavo stamp issued by the republic of Paraguay in 1945. The stamp celebrates the December 20th, 1943 revolution with a call for honor, work, and law. It is part of a 6 stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 30 cents used.

Bolivia in the 30s and 40s was much weakened by a disastrous war with Paraguay. The upper class was discredited for getting the country into the war. The military was discredited for losing it. Gaining political power were an urban middle class and a newly organized working class. The industries were mining and oil production that were both owned by outside interest. Both sides had enough power to see nothing got done.

In a decade 3 different military leaders took power by force and try to navigate a middle course. This involved recognizing unions and nationalizing industry but with a big dose of law and order. They also wanted to quash investigations of the military leadership during the war.

The last of these military rulers was Gaulberto Villarroel who took the office of the President in December 1943. He put through several of the reforms described above, angering conservatives and the USA. The USA was soothed by payments for mines seized and the removal of ministers from a political party the USA considered Nazi. This in turn angered the left and the new recognition caused them to demand ever greater benefits from Villarroel. The President instead wanted calm and set to put down the left wing agitators. This went even so far as the killing of members of the opposition and having their bodies thrown over a 3000 foot cliff.

This proved too much. a group of teachers and students surrounded Villarroel in the Presidential Palace. The palace was already known as the burnt palace from having been burned in an attempted storming in 1875. Villarroel announced his resignation from inside the palace but this was not enough for the crowd. The Burnt Palace was stormed and President Villarroel  was shot, then thrown over the balcony to the street below where his corpse was then strung up on the lamppost. The burnt palace stands today as does the lamppost from which he was hung. There is now a bust of Villarroel to honor him or at least his removal.

The previous military ruler committed suicide in office. The next ruler willingly gave power to a new military junta. A prominent Bolivian writer of the time described the country as “A Sick People”. Perhaps not, but  I bet a few of the failed Bolivian leaders wished they had been more circumspect about taking the job.

Well, my drink is empty and so I will open up the discussion in the bellow comment section. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.