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Carlos Mesa: From Best Selling Bolivian Author to President - 2003-10-18

Carlos Mesa, Bolivia's new president, is a historian and journalist who served more than a year as vice-president in the administration of his beleaguered predecessor Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

The 50-year-old Mr. Mesa is a political independent, the product of Catholic upbringing and Jesuit education. Born in La Paz on August 12, 1953, he comes from a family of noted academics. Both his parents were historians.

Mr. Mesa developed a friendship with Mr. Sanchez de Lozada, a wealthy mining businessman, in the 1980's. The relationship proved to be a key factor in Mr. Sanchez de Lozada's tight election victory in July 2002.

Mr. Mesa's political star rose quickly under the Bolivian president. He addressed this year's United Nations General Assembly, sounding the alarm that democracy was in danger in Bolivia because of the disenfranchisement of the nation's poor.

Before entering politics, Mr. Mesa built a sound reputation as an historian. He came of age in a generation of young idealists in the early 1970s, and received a degree in literature from the Public University in La Paz. He went on to write 10 books, mainly on Bolivian history.

He is also a highly regarded journalist in radio, television and newspapers. He is author of a best-selling book titled Between the Ballot Box and the Rifle, about the many presidents in Bolivia's often tumultuous past.

He first entered the public spotlight in 1982, when he launched Cinemateca Boliviana. One year later, he started a talk show that brought him fame, with presidents and leading Latin American writers answer his questions. He became deputy editor of a newspaper in La Paz in 1983, and from 1986 to 1990 he headed two television stations. But he was best known for creating a television news production company, which in 1999 became a national network, winning international recognition for its reporting.