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Sunday, 5 May, 2002, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Former Bolivian president dies
President Banzer handed over the ceremonial sash to his successor last summer
Mr Banzer, left, resigned last summer
Hugo Banzer, who ruled Bolivia first as a military leader and again as an elected president, has died at the age of 75.

Mr Banzer had been in a coma for several days. He died at his home in the eastern city of Santa Cruz early on Sunday.

He had resigned and handed power to his 41-year old Vice President Jorge Quiroga last summer after being diagnosed with lung and liver cancer.

Elected in 1997, Mr Banzer's time as president was marked by efforts to wipe out the coca crop - the leaf used to make the drug cocaine.

Under Mr Banzer's US-backed "Dignity Plan", the army eradicated 106,000 acres of coca in Chapare, once one of the world's largest illegal coca growing areas.

Bolivian soldiers searching for illegal coca crops
Mr Banzer waged war on the coca crop

But critics accused him of hurting the economy and allowing human rights abuses. Protests by farmers and indigenous groups led to clashes in which 20 people died.

Mr Banzer first came to power in a 1971 coup that began a seven-year military regime.

Human rights groups blame him for more than 200 "disappearances", some 3,000 political arrests, and for forcing several thousand political and trade union activists into exile.

Democratic era

In 1978 Mr Banzer formed his own political party, the Nationalist Democratic Action party (ADN). He stood several times as the ADN presidential candidate, before finally triumphing in 1997.

His deputy, Jorge Quiroga, was installed to complete Mr Banzer's current five-year presidential term, due to end in August 2002.

In his inauguration speech last summer, Mr Quiroga praised his predecessor, saying: "With our applause, let's honour the man, the leader, and the statesman who left deep footprints in our history."

See also:

08 Aug 01 | Americas
New president takes over in Bolivia
27 Jul 01 | Americas
Bolivian president to resign
07 Jul 01 | Americas
Bolivian president's cancer spreads
30 Jul 01 | Americas
Timeline: Bolivia
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bolivia
09 Jun 00 | Americas
Bolivia wages war on the coca leaf
10 Apr 00 | Americas
Bolivia protests claim further lives
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