LA PAZ – Methodical, grumpy, charismatic, humorous, discreet, breaking protocols... these have been some of the traits of Bolivia’s presidents during the country’s democratic era, according to presidential photographer Jose Lizaure.
Since 1982, when democracy returned after 18 years of military rule, Bolivia has had nine presidents, eight of whom were photographed by Lizaure.
His work as the presidential photographer began in 1986, during the administration of Victor Paz Estenssoro, who had previously governed from 1952 until an army coup in 1964.
According to Lizaure, Paz Estenssoro was a very austere and formal person, who “almost never travelled” and avoided contact with the press.
“He had spokespersons and ministers who spoke for him,” the photographer said.
President Jaime Paz Zamora, who was in power from 1989 to 1993, was very different, as he was “casual,” travelled a lot and tended to “break protocols” to be closer to the people, Lizaure said.
Then came the first term of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (1993-1997), remembered as the promoter of neoliberalism in Bolivia and as the person responsible for a repression that left dozens of people dead during his second administration, which lasted barely a year, from 2002-2003, before he was forced resign.
Hugo Banzer, the country’s military ruler from 1971-1978, was elected president in 1997, an unprecedented event in Latin America, a region that endured numerous military regimes.
Banzer’s democratic administration was very different from his dictatorial rule, as he went from being harsh and arbitrary to being “much more charismatic,” the photographer said.
Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga was sworn in as Bolivia’s president in 2001, when Banzer resigned because of a terminal illness.
Quiroga used to jog in the mornings as well as during his official trips, which meant that his bodyguards had to run with him, Lizaure said.
The photographer described President Carlos Mesa (2003-2005), who succeeded Sanchez de Lozada on his resignation, as a methodical and slightly grumpy man, who used to break protocols and leave the Government Palace to “greet people” on the street.
The presidential photographer described incumbent Evo Morales as someone “who has broken the molds” of all the previous presidents and who “is very determined” in his way of governing.
Morales has tended to start work at 5 am and is very athletic, to the point that many of his ministers cannot keep up with him, Lizaure said.
Lizaure, 64, who is preparing to retire, describes himself as “very proud to have served under all of the presidents, whether if they were good or bad.”