Balliván was eventually forced from office in 1848 by another general, Manuel Isidoro Belzú, a demagogue from a poor artisan family of La Paz. Belzú's government made populist appeals to the mestizos, as against the Creole elites. After seven years of rule, during which he survived an eassassination attempt and forty-two revolts, he turned over the presidency to his son-in-law, General Jorge Córdova, and went to Europe as Bolivia's roving ambassador. Córdova lackced Belzú's política! talents, however, and was ousted from power by an aristocratic counterrevolution two years later.
Two colorless civilian presidents followed, the fifth and sixth to occupy the office since Balliván. Then, in 1864, a military revolt brought General Mariano Melgarejo to power: the most brutal, corrupt, and prehensile figure in Bolivia's long history of tyrants. He was an illiterate, drunken mestizo who had risen through the ranks of the army, and his idea of government was that of the typical caudillo: an opportunity for himself and his followers to plunder. His only positive act in the seven years that he ruled was to kill Belzú when the latter attempted to seize La Paz while Melgarejo was putting down a revolt in the countryside. Pretending to be captured, he had two men conduct him to the inside of the Presidential Palace; when Belzú came into the room to gloat at his prisoner, Melgarejo took out a pistol and shot him. Then he went out to the balcony, where Belzú had been haranguing a crowd, and, holding up the bloody corpse, demanded: "¿Belzú o Melgarejo?" After a few seconds of astonished silence, back came the collective shout: "¡Viva Melgarejo!"
Paul H. Lewis "Authoritarian Regimes in Latin America. Dictators, Despots, and Tyrants" Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2006