Developments in Bolivia

Published: 15 June 2009 Updated: 4 August 2015

Majority of Bolivians belong to indigenous people with Indian origin who reside on the barren Andean plateau (altiplano), surrounded by mountain peaks of over 6,500 metres above the sea level. The country's first modern-time president who belongs to one of the indigenous peoples, the radical left farmer leader Evo Morales, took office in 2006.

Bolivia is a country rich with silver, tin and other metals, and mining has for centuries been the central industry. In recent years, large natural gas and oil resources have been discovered, which led to a high growth. However, the country is deeply indebted and highly dependent on development aid. The gap between the rich and the poor is enormous and the majority of the population lives in poverty, mostly in rural areas. Particularly difficult is the situation for indigenous peoples, who have poorer health, shorter life expectancy, higher unemployment, lower income and have lower lever of education than the average.

The new Development Agenda, Agenda Patriótica, prioritises combating poverty, providing basic services to the population such as water, electricity and communications, education, health services as well as sustainable use of natural resources.

Democracy brings hope

After a long period during which governments and military coups continuously succeeded one another, Bolivia saw re-establishment of democracy in the 1980s. However, the country’s political situation remained unstable. Economic crisis imposed austerity measures that contributed to social unrest. After the turn of the millennium, the country was rattled by strikes and demonstrations, and two presidents were forced to resign under tumultuous circumstances.

Evo Morales came to power with the support of the poverty-stricken indigenous people, and has since been reelected with a good margin. A new constitution that gave indigenous people greater rights was adopted and the state took control over key natural resources such as water, gas and oil. The right-wing opposition that is mostly based in the rich lowlands protested, but was at the same time given greater regional autonomy.

Election of Evo Morales for president and a good economic climate have resulted in a number of policy changes that, among other things, have led to an increased involvement of government in the economy and job creation, and given generous contributions to citizens. At the same, weak institutions and political tensions create the risk that could impede efforts to fight against poverty. The ongoing power struggle between different parts and levels of government has come to dominate the political agenda.

Bolivia has for decades been a democracy with great popular participation. Voter turnout has increased considerably in recent years, particularly among the indigenous people.

Sweden’s focus areas in Bolivia

  • Democracy and human rights
  • Education
  • Environment and natural resources

Page owner: Department for Europe and Latin America

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