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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Memories of Bolivia, circa 1980

On July 17, 1980, the Bolivian military overthrew the elected government and installed a brutal and corrupt dictatorship that not only was unpopular but also very involved in the cocaine traffic. One of the earliest journalists to report on the military's excesses was Harold Olmos (pictured above), The Associated Press correspondent in La Paz. Olmos, a Bolivian, was expelled by the regime after about two weeks, landed in Lima, Peru, and eventually made his way to Venezuela and a distinguished career with the AP.

Shortly after Olmos was expelled, the Chief of Bureau in Chile, Tom Fenton, asked me if I'd be interested in moving from Santiago to La Paz to take over where Harold had involuntarily left off. After thinking about it for several seconds, I raised my hand to volunteer. I spent three years reporting on the aftermath of the "Cocaine Coup" and the brutality and stupidity of Luis Garcia Meza and his underlings. 

Olmos is now retired and living with his wife and son in Santa Cruz de la Sierra. During the first part of my three-week visit to Bolivia, I am staying with him at his semi-rural, lushly landscaped sub-tropical home outside the central city. We have lots of memories, stories, friends and colleagues in common. It's been a trip down memory lane with one of the good ones. The AP, Latin America, Bolivia and millions of readers around the world are lucky to have had this professional doing such fine work for them over the years.


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