Bolivia. The large trade union organization COB (Confederación Obrera Boliviana) announced “war” against the government for increased average salaries. The government promised wage increases later in the year but at a much lower inflation-related level than COB’s requirements, which were dismissed as unrealistic.
According to Countryaah, the capital of Bolivia is Sucre. The Bolivia government was reformed during the year. One of President Hugo Banzer’s alliance parties, the populist Condepa (Conciencia de Patria), weakened when founder Carlos Palenques passed away in March 1997. Since then, the party has been divided by internal quarrels and accusations of nepotism, and its two members of government resigned during the year. President Banzer took the opportunity to strengthen his party’s position (Acción Democrática Nacionalista), but at the same time gave the finance ministerial post to the third party in the alliance, MIR (Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria). The alliance lost the majority position in the House of Representatives, but in general the government succeeded in its policy. Some constitutional reforms were implemented, the external debt decreased and the growth figure for the year was about 5%. Only small progress was noted in the fight against coca cultivation. The goal of eradicating it by 2002 seems difficult to achieve – an ordinary farmer earns, for example. only a third as much as a cocoa grower. In early September, therefore, 1,000 coca farmers conducted a protest march to La Paz.
The arrest of Chile’s former dictator Augusto Pinochet in London in November caused the opposition to demand an investigation into Banzer’s involvement in the so-called Operation Condor (see Chile).
New constitution and politics
From January 2006, Evo Morales and his party ruled MAS Bolivia through some of the biggest political changes since the 1952 revolution. His time in power was characterized by relatively stable conditions and increased growth, taking into account the country’s turbulent history.
The former chapar farmer from the Chapare region came to power helped by the protest movements. He turned the country to the left and in the resource-nationalist direction, and allied with countries such as Cuba and Venezuela.
One of the most important changes was the new constitution of 2009. A constitutional assembly was elected by the people as early as 2006, but the process was protracted and was characterized by conflicts. The final constitution that was put to the referendum recognizes the country’s many indigenous peoples, a recognition critics still believe is more symbolic than real. It allows for different types of property, including state and communitarian (that is, collective ownership under the auspices of local communities, in the traditional way). It also gives nature status as a legal subject.
Several of the conflicts were related to the issue of regional autonomy. The areas in the so-called “crescent” consisting of the provinces of Tarija, Beni, Santa Crúz and Pando demanded a great deal of autonomy and control over their own resources, including gas reserves in Tarija. In eastern Santa Crúz, a demand was released for the rest of Bolivia. In addition to fighting for resources, some of the people in the aforementioned provinces identify with Bolivians living in the Highlands to a small extent. When it emerged that the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) had supported the separatist movement in the east, Evo Morales expelled US Ambassador Philip Goldberg from the country.
The role of the state
One of Morales’ first acts as president was to conduct a ” nationalization ” in which state control of the country’s rich gas resources was strengthened and foreign companies imposed higher taxes without expropriating their fields.
The government promised that Bolivia was on its way to socialism and strengthened the state’s position in other sectors. Gradually, the state has increased control of natural resources such as tin, sectors such as telecommunications, electricity and transport (including an airline), and some production companies.
In other cases, the promise of change. Bolivia’s salt desert Uyuni has large deposits of lithium, a resource used for batteries in electric cars, among other things. But the promises to build an industry around this commodity have yielded few tangible results. Another strategic sector, mining, is still in the hands of private cooperatives that are to a small extent subject to state regulations. They have often been in conflict with the Morales government and in 2016 kidnapped, tortured and killed militant miners Deputy Prime Minister Rodolfo Illanes (1958–2016).
Evo Morales succeeded in reducing poverty and modernizing the country. With increased revenues from the gas sector, the state expanded school, health care and housing. The country became a “minimum welfare state”. The economy also went very well.
Since 2011, demand for raw materials has declined, partly as a result of slower growth in China, and many Latin American countries have been severely affected by this. Bolivia had, after this, shifted one of the highest growth rates in the region, and the largest decline in the proportion of the population starving or malnourished. This is attributed to growth, but also to new welfare schemes, which include cash payments to families against sending children to school, to pregnant women against regular health checks, and universal minimum pension to the elderly. But despite these advances, Bolivia is still the country in Latin America with the highest proportion of people starving.