History of Bolivia (wiki)
Bolivia (pronounced /ˌboˈliːviːa/ ( listen)), officially known as the Plurinational State of Bolivia, (Spanish: Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia, IPA: [esˈtaðo pluɾinasjoˈnal de βoˈliβja]) is a landlocked country in central South America. It is bordered by Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay and Argentina to the south, and Chile and Peru to the west.
Prior to European colonization, the Andean region of Bolivia was a part of the Inca Empire – the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century. During most of the Spanish colonial period, this territory was called Upper Peru and was under the administration of the Viceroyalty of Peru, which included most of Spain’s South American colonies. After declaring independence in 1809, 16 years of war followed before the establishment of the Republic, named for Simón Bolívar, on 6 August 1825. Bolivia has struggled through periods of political instability, dictatorships and economic woes.
Bolivia is a Democratic Republic, divided into nine departments. Its geography is varied from the peaks of the Andes in the West, to the Eastern Lowlands, situated within the Amazon Basin. It is a developing country, with a Medium Human Development Index score, and a poverty level around 60%. Its main economic activities include agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, and manufacturing goods such as textiles, clothing, refined metals, and refined petroleum. Bolivia is very wealthy in minerals, especially tin.
The Bolivian population, estimated at 10 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Mestizos, Europeans, Asians, and Africans. The main language spoken is Spanish, although the Aymara and Quechua languages are also common and all three, as well as 34 other indigenous languages, are official. The large number of different cultures within Bolivia has contributed greatly to a wide diversity in fields such as art, cuisine, literature, and music. With the current administration of Evo Morales, Bolivia’s government has championed nationalization of foreign owned corporations and social justice as a way to deal with perceived widespread inequalities between the indigenous and mestizo populations.
Main article: History of Bolivia
Tiwanaku at its largest territorial extent, AD 950The region that is now known as Bolivia has been constantly occupied for over 2,000 years, when the Aymara arrived in the region. Present-day Aymara associate themselves with an advanced civilization situated at Tiwanaku, in Western Bolivia. The capital city of Tiwanaku dates as early as 1500 BC as a small agriculturally based village.
The community grew to urban proportions between AD 600 and AD 800, becoming an important regional power in the southern Andes. According to early estimates, at its maximum extent, the city covered approximately 6.5 square kilometres, and had between 15,000 – 30,000 inhabitants. However, satellite imaging was used recently to map the extent of fossilized suka kollus across the three primary valleys of Tiwanaku, arriving at population-carrying capacity estimates of anywhere between 285,000 and 1,482,000 people.
Around AD 400, Tiwanaku went from being a locally dominant force to a predatory state. Tiwanaku expanded its reaches into the Yungas and brought its culture and way of life to many other cultures in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. However, Tiwanaku was not a violent culture in many aspects. In order to expand its reach Tiwanaku became very political creating colonies, trade agreements (which made the other cultures rather dependant), and state cults.
The empire continued to grow with no end in sight. William H. Isbell states that “Tiahuanaco underwent a dramatic transformation between AD 600 and 700 that established new monumental standards for civic architecture and greatly increased the resident population.” Tiwanaku continued to absorb cultures rather than eradicate them. Archaeologists have seen a dramatic adoption of Tiwanaku ceramics in the cultures who became part of the Tiwanaku empire. Tiwanaku gained its power through the trade it implemented between all of the cities within its empire.
The elites gained their status by the surplus of food they gained from all of the regions and then by having the ability to redistribute the food among all the people. This is where the control of llama herds became very significant to Tiwanaku. The llama herds were essential for carrying goods back and forth between the centre and the periphery as well as symbolizing the distance between the commoners and the elites. Their power continued to grow in this manner of a surplus of resources until about AD 950. At this time a dramatic shift in climate occurred.
At this point in time there was a significant drop in precipitation for the Titicaca Basin. Some archaeologists even venture to say that a great drought occurred. As the rain became less and less many of the cities further away from Lake Titicaca began to produce fewer crops to give to the elites. As the surplus of food ran out for the elites their power began to fall. The capital city became the last place of production, due to the resiliency of the raised fields, but in the end even the intelligent design of the fields was no match for the weather. Tiwanaku disappeared around AD 1000 because food production, their main source of power, dried up. The land was not inhabited for many years after that.
Inca Expansion (1438–1527)
Between 1438 and 1527, the Incan empire, on a mass expansion, acquired much of what is now western Bolivia. The Incans wouldn’t maintain control of the region for long however, as the rapidly expanding Inca Empire was internally weak. As such, the Spanish conquest would be remarkably easy.
The Spanish conquest began in 1524 and was mostly completed by 1533. The territory now called Bolivia was then known as “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). Founded in 1545 as a mining town, Potosí soon produced fabulous wealth, becoming the largest city in the New World with a population exceeding 150,000 people.
By the late 16th century Bolivian silver was an important source of revenue for the Spanish Empire. A steady stream of natives served as labor force (the Spanish employed the pre-Columbian draft system called the mita). Upper Peru was bounded to Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776. Túpac Katari led the indigenous rebellion that laid siege to La Paz in March 1781, during which 20,000 people died. As Spanish royal authority weakened during the Napoleonic wars, sentiment against colonial rule grew.
Independence and subsequent wars
The struggle for independence started on the city of Sucre on 1809, and after 16 years of war the Republic was proclaimed on 6 August 1825, named for Simón Bolívar.
In 1836, Bolivia, under the rule of Marshal Andrés de Santa Cruz, invaded Peru to reinstall the deposed president, General Luis José de Orbegoso. Peru and Bolivia formed the Peru-Bolivian Confederation, with de Santa Cruz as the Supreme Protector. Following tension between the Confederation and Chile, Chile declared war on 28 December 1836. Argentina, Chile’s ally (only in virtue of they both attacked the Peru-Bolivia confederation, Argentinian president Juan Manuel De Rosas, despised both Chilean politician Diego Portales an almost de facto leader and Supreme Protector Antonio Jose De Santa Cruz) declared war on the Confederation on 9 May 1837. The Peruvian-Bolivian forces achieved several major victories during the War of the Confederation: 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 stipulated that Chile withdraw from Peru-Bolivia, return captured Confederate ships, economic relations would be normalized, and the Confederation would pay Peruvian debt to Chile. In Chile public outrage over the treaty forced the government to reject it. Chile organized a second attack on the Confederation and defeated it in the Battle of Yungay. After this defeat, Santa Cruz resigned and went to exile in Ecuador and then Paris, and the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation was dissolved.
Following the independence of Peru, Peruvian president General Agustín Gamarra invaded Bolivia. The Peruvian army was decisively defeated at the Battle of Ingavi on 20 November 1841, where Gamarra 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 treaty in 1842, putting a final end to the war.
Economic instability and continued wars
Manuel Rivera-Ortiz: Widow Of The Mines, Potosí, 2004A period of political and economic instability in the early to mid-19th century weakened Bolivia. Then in the War of the Pacific (1879–83) against Chile, it lost its access to the sea and the adjoining rich salitre (saltpeter) fields, together with the port of Antofagasta.
Since the independence, Bolivia has lost over half of its territory to neighboring countries in wars. It also lost the state of Acre, in the Acre War; this region was known for its production of rubber. Peasants and the Bolivian army fought briefly but after a few victories, and facing the prospect of a total war against Brazil, it was forced to sign the Treaty of Petrópolis in 1903, in which Bolivia lost this rich territory. Popular myth has it that 1864-71 Bolivian president Mario Melgranejo traded the land for what he called “a magnificent white horse” and Acre was subsequently flooded by Brazilians which ultimately led to confrontation and fear of war with Brazil.
In the late 19th century, an increase in the world price of gold brought Bolivia relative prosperity and political stability. During the early 20th century, tin replaced gold 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 20th century.
Living conditions of the native people, who constitute most of the population, remained deplorable. With work opportunities limited to primitive conditions in the mines and in large estates having nearly feudal status, they had no access to education, economic opportunity, and political participation. Bolivia’s defeat by Paraguay in the Chaco War (1932–35), where Bolivia lost a great part of the Gran Chaco region in dispute, marked a turning-point.
Nationalist Revolutionary Movement
A llama in the Laguna Colorada, a shallow salt lake in the southwestern Bolivian sector of the Altiplano.The Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR) emerged as a broadly based party. Denied its victory in the 1951 presidential elections, the MNR led a successful revolution in 1952. 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 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 the rising Popular Assembly and the increase in popularity of The Presidente Juan Jose Torres, 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.
CIA activities and execution of Che Guevara
Main article: CIA activities in Bolivia
CIA had been active in providing finances and training to the Bolivian military in 1960s. The revolutionary leader Che Guevara was executed by a team of CIA officers and Bolivian Army on 9 October 1967 in Bolivia. CIA reported that Guevara was captured on 8 October as a result of the clash with the Cuban-led guerrillas. He had a wound in his leg, but was otherwise in fair condition. At 1150 hours on 9 October the Second Ranger Battalion received direct orders from Bolivian Army Headquarters in La Paz to kill Guevara. These orders were carried out at 1315 hours the same day with a burst of fire from an M-2 automatic rifle. Felix Rodriguez was a CIA officer on the team with the Bolivian Army that captured and shot Guevara. Rodriguez said that after he received a Bolivian presidential execution order, he told “the soldier who pulled the trigger to aim carefully, to remain consistent with the Bolivian government’s story that Che had been killed in action during a clash with the Bolivian army.” Rodriguez said the US government had wanted Che in Panama, and “I could have tried to falsify the command to the troops, and got Che to Panama as the US government said they had wanted,” said Mr Rodriguez.
He chose to “let history run its course” as desired by Bolivia.
Military governments: García Meza and Siles Zuazo
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, drug-trafficking, and economic mismanagement; during his presidency, the inflation that later crippled the Bolivian economy could already be felt. Later convicted in absentia for various crimes by attorney Juan del Granado, including murder, García Meza was extradited from Brazil and began serving a 30-year prison sentence in 1995.
After a military rebellion forced out Meza in 1981, three other military governments in 14 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, Hernán Siles Zuazo again became president, 22 years after the end of his first term of office (1956–60).
Sánchez de Lozada and Banzer: Liberalizing the economy
Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada pursued an aggressive economic and social reform agenda. The most dramatic reform was the “capitalization” program, under which investors, typically foreign, acquired 50% ownership and management control of public enterprises, such as the state petroleum 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 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. The coca leaf has long been part of the Bolivian culture, as indigenous workers have traditionally used the leaf for its properties as a mild stimulant and appetite suppressant.
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 marshal 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 Nationalist Democratic Action party (ADN) 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 6 August 1997. During the election-campaign, Banzer had promised to suspend the privatization of the state-owned oil-company, YPFB. But this seemed unlikely to happen, considering Bolivia’s weak position globally. The Banzer government basically continued the free-market and privatization-policies of its predecessor.
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 6 August 2001, Banzer resigned from office after being diagnosed with cancer. He died less than a year later. 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 22.5% 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 4 August 2002.
A July agreement between the MNR and the fourth-place MIR, which had again been led in the election by former President Jaime Paz Zamora, virtually ensured the election of Sánchez de Lozada in the congressional run-off, and on 6 August 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.
In 2003 the Bolivian gas conflict broke out. On 12 October 2003 the government imposed martial law in El Alto after sixteen people were shot by the police and several dozen wounded in violent clashes which erupted when a caravan of oil trucks escorted by police and soldiers deploying tanks and heavy-caliber machine guns tried to breach a barricade. On 17 October 2003 Evo Morales’ supporters from Cochabamba tried to march into Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the largest city of the eastern lowlands where support was strong for the president. They were turned back. Faced with the option of resigning or more bloodshed, Sanchez de Lozada offered his resignation in a letter to an emergency session of Congress. After his resignation was accepted and his vice president, Carlos Mesa, invested, he left on a commercially scheduled flight for the United States.
In March 2004, the new president Carlos Mesa announced that his government would hold a series of rallies around the country, and at its embassies abroad, demanding that Chile return to Bolivia a stretch of seacoast that the country lost in 1884 after the end of the War of the Pacific. Chile has traditionally refused to negotiate on the issue, but Mesa nonetheless made this policy a central point of his administration.
However, the country’s internal situation became unfavorable for such political action on the international stage. After a resurgence of gas protests in 2005, Carlos Mesa attempted to resign in January 2005, but his offer was refused by Congress. On 22 March 2005, after weeks of new street protests from organizations accusing Mesa of bowing to U.S. corporate interests, Mesa again offered his resignation to Congress, which was accepted on 10 June. The chief justice of the Supreme Court, Eduardo Rodríguez, was sworn as interim president to succeed the outgoing Carlos Mesa.
Plan de Todos
Mobilizing against neoliberalism as a common enemy of the people, the indigenous population of the Andean region was able to achieve widespread government reform. Bolivia, in particular, was quite successful due to the prominence of an indigenous population and the persistence of reformist policies. In 1993, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada ran for president in alliance with the Tupac Katari Revolutionary Liberation Movement, which inspired indigenous-sensitive and multicultural-aware policies. Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (colloquially known as Goni) was able to shift Bolivian society by selling state firms and constitutionally acknowledging the existence of a multicultural and multiethnic population. Current development has led to a neoliberal citizenship regime in which civil rights are expressed through private property ownership, formal democracy and representation, and an investment in the maintaining of infrastructure.
In the 1990s, Bolivia introduced, the Plan de Todos, which led to the decentralization of government, introduction of intercultural bilingual education, implementation of agrarian legislation, and privatization of state owned businesses. The Plan de Todos main incentive was to encourage popular participation among the Bolivian people. The law recognizes the existence of barrios and rural communities as Territorially Based Organizations (TBOs) and has oversight boards known as rómiles de agilancia, or vigilance committees, that are responsible for overseeing municipal governments and planning projects. The Plan formally acknowledged the existence of 311 municipalities, which benefited directly based on the size of their populations. The Plan de Todos inspired the development of a market democracy with minimally regulated capitalist economy. The Plan explicitly stated that Bolivian citizens would own a minimum of 51% of enterprises; under the Plan, most state owned enterprises (SOEs), besides mines, were sold. This privatization of SOEs led to innovative neoliberal structuring that acknowledged a diverse population within Bolivia.
The Law of Popular Participation gave municipalities the responsibility of maintaining various infrastructures (and offering services): health, education, systems of irrigation, which stripped the responsibility away from the state. The state provides municipalities with twenty percent of federal tax revenue so that each municipality can adequately maintain these infrastructures. The Law also redistributes political power to the local level.
Bolivia under the Morales administration
La Paz skyline. The city is the highest capital in the world.The two main candidates for the 2005 Bolivian presidential election held on 18 December 2005 were Juan Evo Morales Ayma of the MAS Party and Jorge Quiroga, leader of the Social and Democratic Power (PODEMOS) Party and former head of the Acción Democrática Nacionalista (ADN) Party. Morales won the election with 53.7% of the votes, an absolute majority, unusual in Bolivian elections. He was sworn in on 22 January 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 16th century, this region of South America, where there is a majority native population, has been ruled mostly by descendants of European immigrants. It should also be known that the Aymara had existed in what is now western Bolivia before the Inca brought Quechua (many modern day Quechua speakers had in antiquity been distinct peoples with perhaps their own language and were assimilated, or were from a group that already spoke a variant of Quechua) and had resisted assimilation (even despite Inca efforts to claim that the territory and cultural legacy of where the Aymara lived was their progenitor, indeed, a supposed secret language only known to the Inca emperor and nobility may in fact have been a form of Aymara), this history of resistance on the part of the Aymara has lasted 600 years, 100 resisting the Inca and 500 resisting the Spaniards (rough estimates). Due to their history of organized resistance, they have managed to take hold of their lands once again (it is generally noted that the Aymara though the oldest major indigenous group in Bolivia had most likely displaced and assimilated/blended with even earlier inhabitants) and so may explain the event described above.
On 1 May 2006, Morales caused controversy when he announced his intent to re-nationalize Bolivian hydrocarbon assets. While stating that the initiative would not be an expropriation, Morales sent Bolivian troops to occupy 56 gas installations simultaneously, including the two Petrobras-owned refineries which provide over 90% of Bolivia’s refining-capacity. All foreign energy firms were required to sign new contracts within 180 days giving Bolivia majority ownership, and up to 82% of revenues for the largest natural gas fields. All such firms 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 semi-private Petrobras. Since gas can only be exported from landlocked Bolivia via Petrobras’ large (and expensive) pipelines, the supplier and customer are strongly linked. Petrobras has announced plans to produce enough natural gas by 2011 to replace that now supplied by Bolivia. Bolivia’s position is strengthened 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 6 August 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 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. MAS and its supports believed two-thirds voting rules would give an effective veto for all constitutional changes to the conservative minority.
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 assembly and the government said this demand was overwhelmingly impractical and politically undesirable. The conflict turned into violence, and the assembly was moved to a military area in Oruro. Although the main opposition party boycotted the session, a constitutional draft was approved on 24 November.
In the 2009 national general elections, Evo Morales was re-elected with 64.22% of the vote. His party, Movement for Socialism, also won a two-thirds majority in both houses of the National Congress.
Main article: Geography of Bolivia
Map of BoliviaAt 1,098,580 square kilometres (424,160 sq mi), Bolivia is the world’s 28th-largest country. Bolivia has been a landlocked nation since 1879, when it lost its coastal department of Litoral to Chile in the War of the Pacific. However, it does have access to the Atlantic via the Paraguay River.
Many ecological zones are represented within Bolivia’s territory. The western highlands of the country are situated in the Andes and include the Bolivian Altiplano. The eastern lowlands include large sections of Amazonian rainforests and the Chaco Plain. The highest peak is Nevado Sajama at 6,542 metres (21,463 ft) located in the Oruro Department. Lake Titicaca is located on the border between Bolivia and Peru. The Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, lies in the southwest corner of the country, in Potosí Department.