During the 1970s, Banzer governed his native Bolivia as a military dictator. After forming the right-wing Nationalist Democratic Action party, he was constitutionally elected to his second term as president (which lasted from 1997 until 2001).
After training at military institutions in several different countries, he served as Bolivian Minister of Education and Culture under the presidential administration of his friend Rene Barrientos.
During his democratic presidency, he launched a program to fight drug trafficking in Bolivia.
His marriage to Yolanda Prada de Banzer resulted in five children.
Banzer began his dictatorship after staging a coup against the government of leftist president Juan Jose Torres.