Carlos Quintanilla

Carlos Quintanilla

General Carlos Quintanilla (Cochabamba, Bolivia, January 22, 1888 - June 8, 1964) served as the de-facto President of Bolivia from August 1935 until April 1940. Quintanilla saw action during the Chaco War of 1932-35, and managed to ascend the echelon of the Bolivian armed forces until he became Commander of the Army during the administration of Germán Busch. When President Busch committed suicide on August 23, 1939, the Bolivian military entrusted Quintanilla with the role of assuming power and calling elections.

Prior to the Election

It is certain that Quintanilla, like many of his fellow officers, was weary of the reckless reformist wave unleashed by the "Military Socialist" Toro and Busch regimes of 1936-39, and wanted a return to the pre-war oligrachic status quo, complete with its faults and relative stability (not to mention rewards for those who collaborated with the economic powers that be).

Political Unity

If the military was weary, the politicians from the traditional (oligarchic) parties were downright scared, having witnessed the mobilization of the masses behind "extremist" programs that boded ill for the continuity of their liberal, laissez-fair agenda. The 1930s had been extremely turbulent politically, with the formation of many new parties of Socialist, Communist, anarchist, and reformist persuasion, all calling for the end of the established order. It was time to unite all the old parties (which now realized how much they had in common and how minor their differences were) behind a single candidate, to present a monolithic front to the gathering forces of reform and revolution. Eventually, they all settled on General Enrique Peñaranda, the controversial but recently (and artificially) "heroized" commander of the Bolivian forces during the second half of the Chaco War. How the "Genuine Republican" faction of former President Salamanca (who died in 1935) could reconcile itself with supporting the man who had overthrown the Commander in Chief in the middle of a war seems incomprehensible, but this is a testament to the fear of losing power that now guided all the actions of the old-style parties.


To ensure Peñaranda's victory, the Quintanilla government exiled a number of prominent opposition leaders, real and potential, including the popular Bernardino Bilbao.

Peñaranda won the elections and in 1940 General Quintanilla left the Palacio Quemado bound for Rome, where he served as the Bolivian ambassador to the Holy See. Quintanilla died in his native Cochabamba on June 8, 1964, at the age of 76.


*Mesa José de; Gisbert, Teresa; and Carlos D. Mesa, "Historia De Bolivia", 5th edition.

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