Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and countercoups. Democratic civilian rule was established in 1982, but leaders have faced difficult problems of deep-seated poverty, social unrest, and illegal drug production. In December 2005, Bolivians elected Movement Toward Socialism leader Evo MORALES president - by the widest margin of any leader since the restoration of civilian rule in 1982 - after he ran on a promise to change the country's traditional political class and empower the nation's poor majority. However, since taking office, his controversial strategies have exacerbated racial and economic tensions between the Amerindian populations of the Andean west and the non-indigenous communities of the eastern lowlands.
The territory now known as Bolivia was called "Upper Peru" and was under the authority of the Viceroy of Lima. Local government came from the Audiencia de Charcas located in Chuquisaca (La Plata — modern Sucre). By the late 16th century Bolivian silver accounted for one-fifth of the Spanish empire's total budget. A steady stream of natives served as labor force (the Spanish employed the pre-Columbian draft system called the mita). As Spanish royal authority weakened during the Napoleonic wars, sentiment against colonial rule grew.
The Republic and economic instability (1809)
The struggle for independence started in 1809, but sixteen years of war followed before the republic was proclaimed, named for Simón Bolívar, on August 6, 1825 (see Bolivian War of Independence).
In 1836, Bolivia, under the rule of Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz, invaded Peru to reinstall the deposed president, General Luis Orbegoso. Peru and Bolivia formed the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, with de Santa Cruz as the Supreme Protector. Following tensions between the Confederation and Chile, war was declared by Chile on December 28, 1836. Argentina, Chile's ally, declared war on the Confederation on May 9, 1837. The Peruvian-Bolivian forces achieved several major victories: the defeat of the Argentinian expedition and the defeat of the first Chilean expedition on the fields of Paucarpata near the city of Arequipa.
On the same field the Paucarpata Treaty was signed with the unconditional surrender of the Chilean and Peruvian rebel army. The treaty assured the Chilean withdrawal from Peru-Bolivia, the return of captured Confederate ships, normalized economic relations, and the payment of Peruvian debt to Chile by the Confederation. Public outrage over the treaty forced the government to reject it. The Chileans organized a second expeditionary force, and attacked the Peru-Bolivian confederation, defeating the Confederation on the fields of Yungay using the same arms and equipment Santa Cruz had allowed them to retain. After this defeat, Santa Cruz fled to Ecuador, and the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation was dissolved.
Following the independence of Peru, General Gamarra, the Peruvian president, invaded Bolivia, under the Peruvian flag. The Peruvian army was decisively defeated at the Battle of Ingaví on November 20, 1841, where General Gamarra himself was killed. The Bolivian army under General José Ballivián then mounted a counter-offensive managing to capture the Peruvian port of Arica. Later, both sides signed a peace in 1842 putting a final end to the war.
Because of a period of political and economic instability in the early to middle nineteenth century, Bolivia's weakness was demonstrated during the War of the Pacific (1879–83), during which it lost its access to the sea, and the adjoining rich nitrate fields, together with the port of Antofagasta, to Chile. Since independence, Bolivia has lost over half of its territory to neighboring countries because of wars. Bolivia also lost the state of Acre (known for its production of rubber) when Brazil persuaded the state of Acre to secede from Bolivia in 1903 (see the Treaty of Petrópolis).
An increase in the world price of silver brought Bolivia a measure of relative prosperity and political stability in the late 1800s. During the early part of the twentieth century, tin replaced silver as the country's most important source of wealth. A succession of governments controlled by the economic and social elite followed laissez-faire capitalist policies through the first thirty years of the twentieth century.
Living conditions of the native people, who constituted most of the population, remained deplorable. Forced to work under primitive conditions in the mines and in nearly feudal status on large estates, they were denied access to education, economic opportunity, or political participation. Bolivia's defeat by Paraguay in the Chaco War (1932–35) marked a turning-point.
Rise of the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (1951)
The Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (NRM) emerged as a broadly based party. Denied their victory in the 1951 presidential elections, the MNR led the successful 1952 revolution. Under President Víctor Paz Estenssoro, the MNR , having strong popular pressure, introduced universal suffrage into his political platform, and carried out a sweeping land-reform promoting rural education and nationalization of the country's largest tin-mines.
Twelve years of tumultuous rule left the MNR divided. In 1964, a military junta overthrew President Paz Estenssoro at the outset of his third term. The 1969 death of President René Barrientos Ortuño, a former member of the junta elected President in 1966, led to a succession of weak governments. Alarmed by public disorder and the rising Popular Assembly, the military, the MNR, and others installed Colonel (later General) Hugo Banzer Suárez as President in 1971. Banzer ruled with MNR support from 1971 to 1974. Then, impatient with schisms in the coalition, he replaced civilians with members of the armed forces and suspended political activities. The economy grew impressively during most of Banzer's presidency, but human rights violations and eventual fiscal crises undercut his support. He was forced to call elections in 1978, and Bolivia again entered a period of political turmoil.
Military governments: García Meza and Siles Zuazo (1978)
Elections in 1979 and 1981 were inconclusive and marked by fraud. There were coups d'état, counter-coups, and caretaker governments. In 1980, General Luis García Meza Tejada carried out a ruthless and violent coup d'état that did not have popular support. He pacified the people by promising to remain in power only for one year. (At the end of the year, he staged a televised rally to claim popular support and announced, "Bueno, me quedo," or, "All right; I'll stay [in office]." He was deposed shortly thereafter.) His government was notorious for human-rights-abuses, narcotics-trafficking, and economic mismanagement; during his presidency, the inflation that would later cripple the Bolivian economy could already be felt. Later convicted in absentia for various crimes, including murder, García Meza was extradited from Brazil and began serving a thirty-year sentence in 1995.
After a military rebellion forced out García Meza in 1981, three other military governments in fourteen months struggled with Bolivia's growing problems. Unrest forced the military to convoke the Congress elected in 1980 and allow it to choose a new chief executive. In October 1982, twenty-two years after the end of his first term of office (1956-60), Hernán Siles Zuazo again became President.
Sánchez de Lozada and Banzer: Liberalizing the economy (1993-2001)
Sánchez de Lozada pursued an aggressive economic and social reform agenda. The most dramatic change undertaken by the Sánchez de Lozada government was the "capitalization" program, under which investors, typically foreign, acquired 50% ownership and management control of public enterprises, such as the state oil corporation, telecommunications system, airlines, railroads, and electric utilities in return for agreed upon capital investments. The reforms and economic restructuring were strongly opposed by certain segments of society, which instigated frequent and sometimes violent protests, particularly in La Paz and the Chapare coca-growing region, from 1994 through 1996. The Sánchez de Lozada government pursued a policy of offering monetary compensation for voluntary eradication of illegal coca by its growers in the Chapare region. The policy produced little net reduction in coca, and in the mid-1990s Bolivia accounted for about one-third of the world's coca that was being processed into cocaine.
During this time, the umbrella labor-organization of Bolivia, the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), became increasingly unable to effectively challenge government policy. A teachers' strike in 1995 was defeated because the COB could not marshall the support of many of its members, including construction- and factory-workers. The state also used selective martial law to keep the disruptions caused by the teachers to a minimum. The teachers were led by Trotskyites, and were considered to be the most militant union in the COB. Their downfall was a major blow to the COB, which also became mired in internal corruption and infighting in 1996.
In the 1997 elections, General Hugo Banzer, leader of the ADN party and former dictator (1971-1978), won 22% of the vote, while the MNR candidate won 18%. General Banzer formed a coalition of the ADN, MIR, UCS, and CONDEPA parties, which held a majority of seats in the Bolivian Congress. The Congress elected him as president, and he was inaugurated on August 6, 1997. During the election-campaign, General Banzer had promised to suspend the privatization of the state-owned oil-company, YPFB. Considering the weak position that Bolivia was in vis-à-vis international corporations, however, this seemed unlikely.
The Banzer government basically continued the free-market and privatization-policies of its predecessor, and the relatively robust economic growth of the mid-1990s continued until about the third year of its term in office. After that, regional, global and domestic factors contributed to a decline in economic growth. Financial crises in Argentina and Brazil, lower world prices for export-commodities, and reduced employment in the coca-sector depressed the Bolivian economy. The public also perceived a significant amount of public-sector corruption. These factors contributed to increasing social protests during the second half of Banzer's term.
At the outset of his government, President Banzer launched a policy of using special police-units to physically eradicate the illegal coca of the Chapare region. The policy produced a sudden and dramatic four-year decline in Bolivia's illegal coca-crop, to the point that Bolivia became a relatively small supplier of coca for cocaine. Those left unemployed by coca-eradication streamed into the cities, especially El Alto, the slum-neighborhood of La Paz. The MIR of Jaime Paz Zamora remained a coalition-partner throughout the Banzer government, supporting this policy (called the Dignity Plan).
On August 6, 2001, Banzer resigned from office after being diagnosed with cancer. He died less than a year later. Banzer's U.S.-educated Vice President, Jorge Fernando Quiroga Ramírez, completed the final year of his term.
In the June 2002 national elections, former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (MNR) placed first with 29.5% of the vote, followed by coca-advocate and native peasant-leader Evo Morales (Movement Toward Socialism, MAS) with 20.9%. Morales edged out populist candidate Manfred Reyes Villa of the New Republican Force (NFR) by just 700 votes nationwide, earning a spot in the congressional run-off against Sánchez de Lozada on August 4, 2002.
A July agreement between the MNR and the fourth-place MIR, which had again been led in the election by former president Paz Zamora, virtually ensured the election of Sánchez de Lozada in the congressional run-off, and on August 6 he was sworn in for the second time. The MNR platform featured three overarching objectives: economic reactivation (and job creation), anti-corruption, and social inclusion.
Contemporary social crisis and the nationalization of hydrocarbon resources (2000-2005)
The 2005 Bolivian presidential election was held on December 18, 2005. The two main candidates were Juan Evo Morales Ayma of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) Party, and Jorge Quiroga, leader of the Democratic and Social Power (PODEMOS) Party and former head of the Acción Democrática Nacionalista (ADN) Party.
Morales won the election with 53.740% of the votes, an absolute majority unusual in Bolivian elections. He was sworn in on January 22, 2006 for a five-year term. Prior to his official inauguration in La Paz, he was inaugurated in an Aymara ritual at the archeological site of Tiwanaku before a crowd of thousands of Aymara people and representatives of leftist movements from across Latin America. Though highly symbolic, this ritual was not historically based and primarily represented native Aymaras — not the main Quechua-speaking population. Since the Spanish conquest in the early 1500s, this region of South America, with a majority native population, has been ruled mostly by descendants of European immigrants, with only a few mestizo (mixed European and indigenous) rulers. Morales, himself an Aymara, has stated that the five hundred years of colonialism are now over and that the era of autonomy has begun.
His recent presidential election victory has also brought new attention to the U.S. drug-war in South America and its heavy emphasis on coca-crop-eradication. The US-supported "Plan Dignidad" (dignity-plan), which seeks to reduce cocaine-production to zero, is seen by many Bolivians as an attack on their livelihoods and way of life. Morales, himself a leader among coca-growers, has said his government will try to interdict drugs, but he wants to preserve the legal market for coca-leaves and promote export of legal coca-products.
On May 1, 2006, Morales announced his intent to re-nationalize Bolivian hydrocarbon assets. While stating that the nationalization-initiative would not be an expropriation, Morales sent Bolivian troops to occupy fifty-six gas-installations simultaneously. Troops were also sent to the two Petrobras-owned refineries in Bolivia, which provide over 90% of Bolivia's refining-capacity. A deadline of 180 days was announced, by which all foreign energy-firms were required to sign new contracts giving Bolivia majority ownership and as much as 82% of revenues (the latter for the largest natural-gas-fields). That deadline has since passed, and all such firms have signed contracts. Reports from the Bolivian government and the companies involved are contradictory as to plans for future investment. By far the biggest customer for Bolivian hydrocarbons has been Brazil, which imports two-thirds of Bolivia's natural gas via pipelines operated by the huge semi-private Petrobras (PBR). Since gas can only be exported from landlocked Bolivia via PBR's large (and expensive) pipelines, the supplier and customer are strongly linked. How the nationalization will unfold is quite uncertain, as PBR has announced plans to produce sufficient natural gas by 2011 to replace that now supplied by Bolivia. Bolivia's position is strengthened both by the knowledge that hydrocarbon-reserves are more highly valued now than at the times of previous nationalizations, and by the pledged support of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela.
Fulfilling a campaign promise, Morales opened on August 6, 2006 the Bolivian Constituent Assembly to begin writing a new constitution aimed at giving more power to the indigenous majority. Problems immediately arose when, unable to garner the two-thirds votes needed to include controversial provisions in the constitutional draft, Morales' party announced that only a simple majority (50%+) would be needed to draft individual articles while two-thirds needed to pass the document in full. Violent protests arose in December 2006 in parts of the country for both two-thirds and departmental autonomy; mostly in the eastern third of the country, where much of the hydrocarbon wealth is located. Conservative sectors in this region threaten to secede from the nation if Morales does not include them in the constitutional process. MAS and its supports believed two-thirds voting rules would give an effective veto for all constitutional changes to the conservative minority. Later in August 2007, more conflicts arose in Sucre, as the city demanded the discussion of the seat of government inside the assembly, hoping the executive and legislative branch could return to the city, but the city faced denial from the assembly and the government. With the conflict turning into violence, the assembly was moved into a military area in Sucre, with only MAS and its allies in on the session, a pre-script was approved on November 24, the subsequent riots left three dead and six Departments not recognizing the new constitution, claiming it only represents the indigenous people of the country.
In January 2007 a clash between middle class city dwellers and poorer rural campesinos left two dead and over 130 injured in the central city of Cochabamba. The campesinos had paralyzed the city by blockading the highways, bridges, and main roads, and days earlier had set fire to the departmental seat of government, trying to force the resignation of the elected Prefect of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa after he demanded a re-vote on departmental autonomy having been previously defeated by popular vote. The city dwellers clashed with the campesinos, breaking the blockade and routing the protesters, while the police did little to interfere on either side. Further attempts by the campesinos to reinstate the blockade and threaten the government were unsuccessful, but the underlying tensions have not been resolved.
Location: Central South America, southwest of Brazil
Geographic coordinates: 17 00 S, 65 00 W
Map references: South America
Area: total: 1,098,580 sq km
land: 1,084,390 sq km
water: 14,190 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly less than three times the size of Montana
Land boundaries: total: 6,940 km
border countries: Argentina 832 km, Brazil 3,423 km, Chile 860 km, Paraguay 750 km, Peru 1,075 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: varies with altitude; humid and tropical to cold and semiarid
Terrain: rugged Andes Mountains with a highland plateau (Altiplano), hills, lowland plains of the Amazon Basin
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Rio Paraguay 90 m
highest point: Nevado Sajama 6,542 m
Natural resources: tin, natural gas, petroleum, zinc, tungsten, antimony, silver, iron, lead, gold, timber, hydropower
Land use: arable land: 2.78%
permanent crops: 0.19%
other: 97.03% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,320 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 622.5 cu km (2000)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 1.44 cu km/yr (13%/7%/81%)
per capita: 157 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: flooding in the northeast (March-April)
Environment - current issues: the clearing of land for agricultural purposes and the international demand for tropical timber are contributing to deforestation; soil erosion from overgrazing and poor cultivation methods (including slash-and-burn agriculture); desertification; loss of biodiversity; industrial pollution of water supplies used for drinking and irrigation
Environment - international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection
Geography - note: landlocked; shares control of Lago Titicaca, world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805 m), with Peru
The 1967 constitution, amended in 1994, provides for balanced executive, legislative, and judicial powers. The traditionally strong executive, however, tends to overshadow the Congress, whose role is generally limited to debating and approving legislation initiated by the executive. The judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court and departmental and lower courts, has long been riddled with corruption and inefficiency. Through revisions to the constitution in 1994, and subsequent laws, the government has initiated potentially far-reaching reforms in the judicial system and processes.
Bolivia's nine departments received greater autonomy under the Administrative Decentralization law of 1995. Departmental autonomy further increased with the first popular elections for departmental governors (prefectos) on 18 December 2005, after long protests by pro-autonomy-leader department of Santa Cruz. Bolivian cities and towns are governed by directly elected mayors and councils. Municipal elections were held on 5 December 2004, with councils elected to five-year terms. The Popular Participation Law of April 1994, which distributes a significant portion of national revenues to municipalities for discretionary use, has enabled previously neglected communities to make striking improvements in their facilities and services.
The president is elected to a five-year term by popular vote. Elected president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada resigned in October 2003, and was substituted by vice-president Carlos Mesa. Mesa was in turn replaced by chief justice of the Supreme Court Eduardo Rodríguez in June 2005. Six months later, on December 18, 2005, the Socialist native leader, Evo Morales, was elected president.
Bolivia's government is a republic. The Congreso Nacional (National Congress) has two chambers. The Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies) has 130 members elected to five-year terms, seventy from single-member districts (circunscripciones) and sixty by proportional representation. The Cámara de Senadores (Chamber of Senators) has twenty-seven members (three per department), elected to five-year terms.
Bolivia has had a total of 193 coups d'etat from independence until 1981, thereby averaging a change of government once every ten months. Credit for the past quarter century of relative political stability is largely attributed to President Víctor Paz Estenssoro, who ceded power peacefully after cutting hyperinflation which reached as high as 14,000 percent.
Population: 9,119,152 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 34.3% (male 1,593,509/female 1,532,155)
15-64 years: 61.1% (male 2,730,359/female 2,841,872)
65 years and over: 4.6% (male 187,123/female 234,134) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 22.2 years
male: 21.5 years
female: 22.9 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.42% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 22.82 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 7.44 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: -1.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.961 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.799 male(s)/female
total population: 0.979 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 50.43 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 53.93 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 46.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 66.19 years
male: 63.53 years
female: 68.97 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 2.76 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.1% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 4,900 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: less than 500 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever
water contact disease: leptospirosis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Bolivian(s)
Ethnic groups: Quechua 30%, mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry) 30%, Aymara 25%, white 15%
Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, Protestant (Evangelical Methodist) 5%
Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara (official)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 86.7%
female: 80.7% (2001 census)
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Bolivia
conventional short form: Bolivia
local long form: Republica de Bolivia
local short form: Bolivia
Government type: republic
Capital: name: La Paz (administrative capital)
geographic coordinates: 16 30 S, 68 09 W
time difference: UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
note: Sucre (constitutional capital)
Administrative divisions: 9 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Beni, Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz, Oruro, Pando, Potosi, Santa Cruz, Tarija
Independence: 6 August 1825 (from Spain)
National holiday: Independence Day, 6 August (1825)
Constitution: 2 February 1967; revised in August 1994; possible referendum on new constitution to be held in 2008
Legal system: based on Spanish law and Napoleonic Code; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age, universal and compulsory (married); 21 years of age, universal and compulsory (single)
Executive branch: chief of state: President Juan Evo MORALES Ayma (since 22 January 2006); Vice President Alvaro GARCIA Linera (since 22 January 2006); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Juan Evo MORALES Ayma (since 22 January 2006); Vice President Alvaro GARCIA Linera (since 22 January 2006)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a single five-year term; election last held 18 December 2005 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: Juan Evo MORALES Ayma elected president; percent of vote - Juan Evo MORALES Ayma 53.7%; Jorge Fernando QUIROGA Ramirez 28.6%; Samuel DORIA MEDINA Arana 7.8%; Michiaki NAGATANI Morishit 6.5%; Felipe QUISPE Huanca 2.2%; Guildo ANGULA Cabrera 0.7%
Legislative branch: bicameral National Congress or Congreso Nacional consists of Chamber of Senators or Camara de Senadores (27 seats; members are elected by proportional representation from party lists to serve five-year terms) and Chamber of Deputies or Camara de Diputados (130 seats; 70 members are directly elected from their districts and 60 are elected by proportional representation from party lists to serve five-year terms)
elections: Chamber of Senators and Chamber of Deputies - last held 18 December 2005 (next to be held in 2010)
election results: Chamber of Senators - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PODEMOS 13, MAS 12, UN 1, MNR 1; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - MAS 73, PODEMOS 43, UN 8, MNR 6
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (judges appointed for 10-year terms by National Congress); District Courts (one in each department); provincial and local courts (to try minor cases); Constitutional Tribunal (5 primary or titulares and 5 alternate or suplente magistrates appointed by Congress; to rule on constitutional issues); National Electoral Court (6 members elected by Congress, Supreme Court, the President, and the political party with the highest vote in the last election for 4-year terms)
Political parties and leaders: Free Bolivia Movement or MBL [Franz BARRIOS]; Movement Toward Socialism or MAS [Juan Evo MORALES Ayma]; Movement Without Fear or MSM [Juan DEL GRANADO]; National Revolutionary Movement or MNR [Mirta QUEVEDO]; National Unity [Samuel DORIA MEDINA Arana]; Poder Democratico Nacional or PODEMOS [Jorge Fernando QUIROGA Ramirez]; Social Alliance [Rene JOAQUINO]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Cocalero groups; indigenous organizations; labor unions; Sole Confederation of Campesino Workers of Bolivia or CSUTCB
International organization participation: CAN, CSN, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur (associate), MIGA, MINUSTAH, MONUC, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNMEE, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNMISET, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Gustavo GUZMAN Saldana
chancery: 3014 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:  (202) 483-4410
FAX:  (202) 328-3712
consulate(s) general: Houston, Miami, New York, Oklahoma City, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, DC
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Philip S. GOLDBERG
embassy: Avenida Arce 2780, La Paz
mailing address: P. O. Box 425, La Paz; APO AA 34032
telephone:  (2) 216-8000
FAX:  (2) 216-8111
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of red (top), yellow, and green with the coat of arms centered on the yellow band
note: similar to the flag of Ghana, which has a large black five-pointed star centered in the yellow band
Bolivian culture has been heavily influenced by the Quechua, the Aymara, as well as by the popular cultures of Latin America as a whole.
The best known of the various festivals found in the country is the "Carnaval de Oruro", which was among the first 19 "Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity," as proclaimed by the UNESCO in May of 2001.
Entertainment includes football (soccer), which is the national sport, as well as table football, which is played on street-corners by both children and adults.
Zoos are a popular attraction, with a diverse population of interesting creatures, but lack proper funding.
Economy - overview: Bolivia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. Following a disastrous economic crisis during the early 1980s, reforms spurred private investment, stimulated economic growth, and cut poverty rates in the 1990s. The period 2003-05 was characterized by political instability, racial tensions, and violent protests against plans - subsequently abandoned - to export Bolivia's newly discovered natural gas reserves to large northern hemisphere markets. In 2005, the government passed a controversial hydrocarbons law that imposed significantly higher royalties and required foreign firms then operating under risk-sharing contracts to surrender all production to the state energy company, which was made the sole exporter of natural gas. The law also required that the state energy company regain control over the five companies that were privatized during the 1990s - a process that is still underway. In 2006, higher earnings for mining and hydrocarbons exports pushed the current account surplus to about 12% of GDP and the government's higher tax take produced a fiscal surplus after years of large deficits. Debt relief from the G8 - announced in 2005 - also has significantly reduced Bolivia's public sector debt burden. Private investment as a share of GDP, however, remains among the lowest in Latin America, and inflation reached double-digit levels in 2007.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $39.78 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $12.8 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $4,400 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 14.5%
services: 55% (2006 est.)
Labor force: 4.793 million (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 40%
services: 43% (2006 est.)
Unemployment rate: 8% in urban areas; widespread underemployment (2006)
Population below poverty line: 60% (2006 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 0.3%
highest 10%: 47.2% (2002)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 59.2 (2006)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 12% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 13.4% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $4.1 billion
expenditures: $4 billion (2007 est.)
Public debt: 46.2% of GDP (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: soybeans, coffee, coca, cotton, corn, sugarcane, rice, potatoes; timber
Industries: mining, smelting, petroleum, food and beverages, tobacco, handicrafts, clothing
Industrial production growth rate: 1.1% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 5.293 billion kWh (2006)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 44.4%
other: 1.5% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 3.385 billion kWh (2006)
Electricity - exports: 177,000 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 18,000 kWh (2007)
Oil - production: 41,570 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - consumption: 31,500 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - exports: 18,500 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports: 8,600 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves: 440.5 million bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 12.74 billion cu m (2006 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 1.486 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 10.58 billion cu m (2006 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 651.8 billion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: $1.325 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $4.259 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: natural gas, soybeans and soy products, crude petroleum, zinc ore, tin
Exports - partners: Brazil 45.5%, US 10.8%, Argentina 9.2%, Colombia 6.8%, Japan 5.5%, South Korea 4.3% (2006)
Imports: $3.107 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: petroleum products, plastics, paper, aircraft and aircraft parts, prepared foods, automobiles, insecticides, soybeans
Imports - partners: Brazil 29.3%, Argentina 16%, Chile 12.1%, US 9.1%, Peru 8.1% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $582.9 million (2005 est.)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $4.917 billion (31 October 2007)
Debt - external: $3.8 billion (31December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home: $6.88 billion (31 December 2004)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad: $NA
Market value of publicly traded shares: $2.2 billion (2005)
Currency (code): boliviano (BOB)
Currency code: BOB
Exchange rates: bolivianos per US dollar - 7.8616 (2007), 8.0159 (2006), 8.0661 (2005), 7.9363 (2004), 7.6592 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Telephones - main lines in use: 646,300 (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 2.421 million (2005)
Telephone system: general assessment: privatization beginning in 1995; reliability has steadily improved; new subscribers face bureaucratic difficulties; most telephones are concentrated in La Paz and other cities; mobile- cellular telephone use expanding rapidly; fixed-line teledensity of 7 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone density of 27 per 100 persons
domestic: primary trunk system, which is being expanded, employs digital microwave radio relay; some areas are served by fiber-optic cable; mobile cellular systems are being expanded
international: country code - 591; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2007)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 171, FM 73, shortwave 77 (1999)
Radios: 5.25 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 48 (1997)
Televisions: 900,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .bo
Internet hosts: 24,363 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 9 (2000)
Internet users: 580,000 (2006)
Airports: 1,061 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 16
over 3,047 m: 4
2,438 to 3,047 m: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 5
914 to 1,523 m: 3 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 1,045
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 57
914 to 1,523 m: 183
under 914 m: 800 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 4,860 km; liquid petroleum gas 47 km; oil 2,475 km; refined products 1,589 km; unknown (oil/water) 247 km (2007)
Railways: total: 3,504 km
narrow gauge: 3,504 km 1.000-m gauge (2006)
Roadways: total: 62,479 km
paved: 3,749 km
unpaved: 58,730 km (2004)
Waterways: 10,000 km (commercially navigable) (2007)
Merchant marine: total: 25 ships (1000 GRT or over) 73,877 GRT/110,148 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 1, cargo 12, carrier 1, passenger/cargo 2, petroleum tanker 9
foreign-owned: 9 (Argentina 1, China 1, Egypt 1, Iran 1, Italy 1, Singapore 1, Syria 1, Taiwan 1, Yemen 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Puerto Aguirre (inland port on the Paraguay/Parana waterway at the Bolivia/Brazil border); Bolivia has free port privileges in maritime ports in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay
Military branches: Bolivian Armed Forces: Bolivian Army (Ejercito Boliviano), Bolivian Navy (Armada Boliviana; includes marines), Bolivian Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Boliviana, FAB) (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; when annual number of volunteers falls short of goal, compulsory recruitment is effected, including conscription of boys as young as 14; one estimate holds that 40% of the armed forces are under the age of 18, with 50% of those under the age of 16; conscript tour of duty - 12 months (2004)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 1,923,234
females age 18-49: 2,007,315 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 1,311,414
females age 18-49: 1,502,177 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 101,101
females age 18-49: 98,671 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 1.9% (2006)
Disputes - international: Chile rebuffs Bolivia's reactivated claim to restore the Atacama corridor, ceded to Chile in 1884, offering instead unrestricted but not sovereign maritime access through Chile for Bolivian natural gas and other commodities
Illicit drugs: world's third-largest cultivator of coca (after Colombia and Peru) with an estimated 26,500 hectares under cultivation in August 2005, an 8% increase from 2004; transit country for Peruvian and Colombian cocaine destined for Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Europe; cultivation steadily increasing despite eradication and alternative crop programs; money-laundering activity related to narcotics trade, especially along the borders with Brazil and Paraguay; major cocaine consumption