Carlos Mesa

For the Colombian Olympic cyclist, see Carlos Mesa (cyclist).
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Mesa and the second or maternal family name is Gisbert.
Carlos Mesa

Carlos Mesa in Guatemala City (2014)
78th President of Bolivia
In office
17 October 2003  6 June 2005
Preceded by Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada
Succeeded by Eduardo Rodríguez
Vice President of Bolivia
In office
6 August 2002  17 October 2003
President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada
Preceded by Jorge Quiroga Ramírez
Succeeded by Álvaro García Linera
Personal details
Born Carlos Diego Mesa Gisbert
(1953-08-12) August 12, 1953
La Paz, Bolivia
Nationality Bolivian
Political party no party affiliation
Spouse(s) Elvira Salinas de Mesa
Alma mater Complutense University of Madrid, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés

Carlos Diego Mesa Gisbert (born August 12, 1953) is a Bolivian historian and former politician. He was Vice President of Bolivia from August 2002 to October 2003 and then became President, holding office from October 17, 2003 until his resignation on June 6, 2005. Mesa had previously been a television journalist. His widespread recognition prompted the MNR candidate Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada to pick him as running mate in the 2002 Bolivian presidential elections. The winning ticket of Sánchez-Mesa took possession on August 6, 2002.[1] As Vice-President, Mesa was quickly put into a difficult situation when a wave of protests and strikes shut down Bolivia in a bitter dispute known as the Bolivian Gas War. The demonstrations eventually forced Sánchez de Lozada to resign and leaving Mesa as President of the Republic.

Mesa is currently a Bolivian spokesman in the case Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean in the International Court of Justice.[2]


That year and eight months after assuming office, Mesa found himself, like president Sanchez de Lozada, under the same extreme internal and external political pressures over the use of Bolivia's 1.5 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, estimated to be worth billions of dollars (USD). Without political alliances, gave him popular support to summon an Asamblea Constituyente, Referendum of hydrocarbons and Referendum for regional autonomies.

After a resurgence of Gas protests in 2005, on March 6, 2005, after weeks of new street protests from organizations accusing Mesa of bowing to U.S. corporate interests, Mesa offered his resignation to Congress. Unanimously, the Congress rejected the presidential resignation. On June 6, 2005 the President offered his final resignation, which was unanimously accepted by the Congress. In June 9, 2005 the Congress sworn as interim president the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodríguez.

Carlos Mesa had been Vice-President to President Sanchez de Lozada since August 6, 2002. In that capacity, he was also the head of the Bolivian Congress.

As noted, Mesa was, prior to entering the political arena, a historian and journalist in radio, television and newspapers. He is a member of the Bolivian History Academy, and co-wrote (along with his parents, themselves noted scholars and professionals) an exhaustive compendium of Bolivian history from the pre-Hispanic period to the close of the millennium.

Despite his lack of experience in the political arena, Mesa's star rose quickly in the Sánchez de Lozada administration. In September 2003, he addressed the UN General Assembly, where he warned:

Democracy is in danger in Bolivia as the result of legitimate pressures from the poor. We cannot generate economic growth and well-being for a few and then expect that the large majorities that are excluded will watch silently and patiently. We poor countries demand that our products be admitted into the markets of rich countries in adequate conditions.

As the gas conflict escalated, Mesa became discontent with the government's heavy-handed repression of the protests, which would leave over 60 people dead during September and October 2003. He did not resign, but he did withdraw his support for Sánchez de Lozada five days before the latter's resignation, saying: "I cannot continue to support the situation we are living through." It also placed him at the center of extreme political pressures from both internal Bolivian and external foreign interests regarding the use of Bolivia's natural gas reserves. Bolivia's next presidential elections were scheduled for 2007.

The referendum of hydrocarbons was the most important initiative of this term, done under strong preassure from radical groups. (See: Bolivian gas referendum, 2004.). Mesa changed the taxes rates and the property of the gas reserves for the Bolivian state. In addition, in January 2004 he announced that his government would hold a series of rallies around the country, and at its embassies abroad, demanding that Chile return to Bolivia a stretch of seacoast that the country lost in 1879 after the end of the War of the Pacific. Chile has traditionally refused to negotiate on the issue, but Mesa nonetheless made this policy a central point of his administration seeking the popular support he lacked.

Following protests, he tendered his resignation to Congress on March 6, 2005; however, the legislators voted almost unanimously the next day to reject his offer. Still, domestic tensions between the poor and rural eastern highlands and the wealthier cities and oil-rich south continued to rise. Weeks of escalating street demonstrations and widening disorder reached a peak in June 2005, as tens of thousands of protesters marched into La Paz. Aware of his growing leadership incapacity to control or influence events without resorting to violence, Mesa tendered his resignation to Congress. This time, Congress accepted unanimously his offer. The presidents of the two national legislative chambers at that point abdicated their constitutional powers in favor of the chief justice of the Supreme Court and new president of Bolivia, Eduardo Rodríguez. He was charged with the duty of swiftly organizing national elections, which led to the massive victory of MAS candidate Evo Morales in December 2005. Later on Evo Morales's Government accused Carlos Mesa for economic damages to the country interests.

Bolivian spokesman before the ICJ

Leaving behind previous animosity, Morales agreed with Mesa that the latter would be the Bolivian spokesman in the ongoing (as of 2016) case against Chile presented to the International Court of Justice.[3]



  1. Vicepresidency of Bolivia
  2. Bolivia seeks to improve its international image El País 17 December 2004
  3. World Court Accepts Jurisdiction in Bolivia-Chile Dispute

See also

Political offices
Preceded by
Jorge Quiroga
Vice President of Bolivia
Succeeded by
Álvaro García Linera
Preceded by
Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada
President of Bolivia
Succeeded by
Eduardo Rodríguez
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