Bolivian Socialist Falange
|Leader||Gustavo Sejas Revollo|
|Founder||Óscar Únzaga de la Vega|
|Founded||1937Santiago, Chile, in|
|Headquarters||La Paz, Bolivia|
|Chamber of Deputies||
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The Bolivian Socialist Falange (Spanish: Falange Socialista Boliviana) was a Bolivian political party established in 1937. Despite its leftist-sounding name, it was actually a Far-right party drawing inspiration from fascism. It was the country's second-largest party between approximately 1954 and 1974. After that, its followers have tended to gravitate toward the officialist military candidacy of General Juan Pereda (1978) and, especially, toward the ADN party of former dictator Hugo Banzer.
Foundation and early development
Founded in Chile by a group of exiles (chief among which was Óscar Únzaga de la Vega), the FSB initially drew its inspiration from Spanish falangism. Indeed, in those early years it came close to espousing a Fascist agenda, in the style of Spain's Francisco Franco and Italy's Benito Mussolini. It was reformist, however, in that it advocated major transformations to the existing (largely oligarchic) social and political order. This brought it more into the sphere of other "revolutionary" movements such as the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement of Víctor Paz Estenssoro, which would come to power after unleashing the 1952 Revolution. In fact, FSB was at first brought into the MNR coalition at the outbreak of that massive revolt, but backed out at the last moment. A rather minor movement during the 1940s, the "Falange" began to attract major support from former landowners and other members of the Bolivian elite after the triumph of the 1952 Revolution, becoming the ruling MNR's main opposition party. FSB's growing popularity coincided, in particular, with a period of high inflation in the country under the Siles Zuazo presidency (1952–56), and included many well-to-do university students. The movement was based on a cell system and so became stronger in some specific areas, notably in La Paz and Santa Cruz, although attempts to win over the peasantry in Cochabamba proved fruitless and damaged the party's growth.
Ideologically, the party's stance evolved from an adherence to Spanish falangism to a more moderate form of statism. Perhaps inspired by the efforts of the ruling MNR at perpetuating itself in power in the manner of Mexico's PRI party, FSB, too, sought the creation of a strong one-party state, with the Army and the Church held up as the two great pillars of Bolivian society. In the 1950s, the Falange adopted a strong anti-communist stance, with its leaders being particularly critical of Cuba's Fidel Castro following his emergence. Alongside this, however, FSB portrayed itself as being nationalist and anti-imperialist.
Nazi German war criminal Klaus Barbie settled in La Paz in 1951 and shortly afterwards witnessed a march by FSB members. Barbie claimed that the sight of the uniformed, armband-wearing militants giving the Roman salute made him feel at home and he soon sought out leading members of the party and became close to them.
The party supported the candidacy of the war hero General Bernardino Bilbao Rioja in the 1951 Presidential elections. Bilbao secured a respectable 11% of the vote, and he would later return as a candidate. In those elections, anti-system parties such as the MNR and FSB had won a combined majority, but the MNR were prevented from taking office by military intervention on behalf of the oligarchy, leading to the 1952 Revolution. With the collapse of Bolivia's traditional parties, the FSB found itself as the leading opposition force in the country. Óscar Únzaga, however, remained the party's undisputed leader, and it was he who led FSB's 1956 presidential ticket. He garnered 15% of the vote in an election that many considered suspect due to massive state support for the officialist candidate, Hernán Siles Zuazo. FSB lost momentum after the 1959 assassination of its maximum leader and founder, Óscar Únzaga. FSB was at this point strongly suppressed politically, and new parties began to appeal to similar sections of society. The party's vote share fell to 8% in the 1960 elections partly as a result, although no one can be sure that this is indeed the percentage that they obtained.
In 1966, Bilbao ran once again, finishing a distant runner-up to René Barrientos. The FSB continued to be represented in Congress until 1989.
Following the death of Únzaga, the mainstream of the FSB came under the leadership of Mario Gutiérrez. the party's candidate in the 1960 elections. Following the return of the military to power in the aftermath of the 1964 coup d'état, it was the MNR's turn to be repressed, and FSB's fortunes seemed to be on the rise again. This was an illusion, however, as the ruling military establishment was not about to be displaced. Presenting once again the venerable Gen. Bilbao Rioja as its candidate in the 1966 elections, FSB was soundly defeated by yet another officialist candidate: the popular General Barrientos, who had led the 1964 anti-MNR revolt.
Bolivia did not have another election until the late 1970s. With its leadership back in the hands of Mario Gutiérrez, FSB supported (as did the MNR) the 1971 military coup that brought to power General Hugo Banzer. Indeed, Gutiérrez served Banzer as his Minister of Foreign Relations for many years. At this point FSB shifted its position somewhat, becoming more of a pro-military conservative party. The party was excluded from government in 1974 however when Banzer decided to establish a purely military regime without political parties. The FSB's ranks were further diluted when various factions split off from it in the aftermath of the Banzer dictatorship and the electoral upheavals of the 1978-80 period. Ultimately the main body of the FSB was absorbed into the conservative Nationalist Democratic Action (founded by Banzer himself), with a minor group continuing as the Falange Neounzaguista.
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