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David Padilla Arancibia (born August 27, 1931) was a military general and former de facto president of Boliviamarker. He ruled his country from November 1978 to August 1979.

A native of Sucremarker, Padilla was born on August 27, 1931. Joining the armed forces, he rose to the post of Commander of the Army. He was serving in that capacity when he deposed the also de facto government of General Juan Pereda on November 24, 1978. Pereda had taken the presidency in July of the same year simply because it was available to him, many military leaders having grown tired of the constant manipulations of dictator Hugo Banzer for his personal political ends. Padilla, in contrast, came to power as the leader of a group of democratically-oriented officers committed to returning the country to democratic rule in as short a period of time as possible. His goal was simple: to transfer power to whoever won the upcoming presidential elections and effect a retreat of the military to its barracks and posts of operation, where they belonged. For this reason, Padilla was remarkably popular during his short (nine-month) stay at the Palacio Quemado.

The elections, on the other hand, turned out to be a fiasco. The leftist candidate Hernán Siles finished first at the polls, but without attaining the 50% majority necessary for direct election. Thus, it was left to Congress to determine the next Chief Executive, as stipulated in the Bolivian Constitution. To the surprise of many, Congress could not agree on any candidate, no matter how many votes were taken. Positions hardened, and no solution seemed possible, until an alternative was offered in the form of the President of the Senate, Wálter Guevara, who was named Bolivian President for one year pending the calling of new elections in 1980. Padilla duly transferred power to Guevara on August 8, 1979, as he had promised he would. He left the governing palace as an almost universally respected former de facto military leader — a rarity indeed in the history of Bolivia.


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