Bolivia Overview

This was originally intended as a PowerPoint presentation, but after that didn’t happen, I thought I had put too much research into it to just delete it.  So, what better forum than here?

Bolivia Overview

(Constructed by Justin Ames)


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.

Bolivia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. Wealthy urban elites, who are mostly of Spanish ancestry, have traditionally dominated political and economic life, whereas most Bolivians are low-income subsistence farmers, miners, small traders or artisans.

World’s third-largest cultivator of coca (after Colombia and Peru)

Population of 9,247,816 (July 2008 est.)

GDP per capita $4,700 (2008 est.)

Industries – mining, smelting, petroleum, food and beverages, tobacco, handicrafts, clothing

Natural Resources: tin, natural gas (the second-largest reserves of natural gas in South America), petroleum, zinc, tungsten, antimony, silver, iron, lead, gold, timber, hydropower and recently lithium

The Bolivian Revolution (1952)

The Journal of Economic History argue that the Bolivian National Revolution of 1952 “stands alongside the Mexican and Cuban revolutions as one of the most significant events in Latin American history.”

“In the twentieth century, these are the only instances in this hemisphere of true revolution; revolution in the sense that the distribution of wealth and power were significantly altered.”

Government perceived to be loyal only to the upper class, produced widespread dissatisfaction amongst the working class and farmers of Bolivia

Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) emerged as a broadly based party in opposition to the status quo

Although outlawed in Bolivia in 1946, the MNR continued to have many thousands of Bolivian adherents.  In the Bolivian presidential elections of 1951, the MNR won a plurality victory with its candidate Victor Paz Estenssoro who was in exile in Argentina.

In order to prevent the MNR from coming to power, Bolivia’s outgoing president resigned and turned the government over to a 10-man military junta

On April 8-11, 1952, a popular revolt occurred in La Paz, and elsewhere; the MNR, supported by armed workers, civilians, and peasants and the national police, overthrew the military junta and recalled Paz Estenssoro from exile to take the presidency.

As president he did what he said he would do: nationalized the tin-mining industry, raised miners’ wages, liquidated the vast holdings of powerful landholders and distributed this land to landless indigenous people, promoted rural education and introduced universal suffrage, with neither literacy or property requirements.

Bolivia’s people, especially the indigenous, had gained significant civil and political rights

Although the MNR, as a broad coalition, had successfully waged and won the 1952 revolution, it was plagued by strife and infighting between its factions. This infighting weakened the MNR, and after twelve years of chaotic rule, a military junta overthrew President Estenssoro at the outset of his third term in 1964.


Timeline: Bolivia

A chronology of key events:

1538 – Spanish conquer Bolivia, which becomes part of the Vice-royalty of Peru.

1824 – Venezuelan freedom fighter Simon Bolivar, after whom Bolivia is named, liberates the country from Spanish rule.

1825 – Bolivia becomes independent with Simon Bolivar as its president.

1879-84 – Bolivia becomes landlocked after losing mineral-rich, coastal territory in the Atacama to Chile.

1920 – Rebellion by indigenous peoples.

Military coups

1952 – Peasants and miners overthrow military regime; Victor Paz Estenssoro returns from exile to become president and introduces social and economic reforms, including universal suffrage, nationalisation of tin mines and land redistribution, and improves education and the status of indigenous peoples.

1964 – Vice-President Rene Barrientos stages military coup.

1967 – US helps suppress peasant uprising led by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who is killed after being betrayed by peasants.

1969 – Vice-President Siles Salinas replaces Barrientos who is killed in plane crash, but Salinas is himself deposed by the army, which rules with increased severity.

1971 – Col Hugo Banzer Suarez comes to power after staging military coup.

1980 – General Luis Garcia stages coup after inconclusive elections; US and European countries suspend aid in view of allegations of corruption and drug trafficking.

1981 – General Celso Torrelio Villa replaces Garcia, who is forced to resign.

1982 – Torrelio resigns as the economy worsens; military junta hands over power to civilian administration led by Siles Zuazo, who heads a leftist government.

1983 – US and European countries resume aid following the introduction of austerity measures.

Democracy and economic collapse

1985 – Siles resigns in the wake of a general strike and an attempted coup; elections held but are inconclusive; parliament chooses Paz Estenssoro as president.

1989 – Leftist Jaime Paz Zamora becomes president and enters power-sharing pact with former dictator Hugo Banzer.

1990 – Some 4 million acres of rainforest allocated to indigenous peoples.

1993 – Banzer withdraws from the presidential race, which is won by Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

1997 – Banzer elected president.

1999 – Encouraged by moves to prosecute former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, opposition demands inquiry into Banzer’s role during the repression of the 1970s.

Banzer dies

2001 8 August – Vice-President Jorge Quiroga sworn in as president, replacing Hugo Banzer who is suffering from cancer. He dies in May 2002.

2001 December – Farmers reject a government offer of $900 each a year in exchange for the eradication of the coca crop used to produce cocaine.

2002 August – Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada wins a clear victory in a National Congress run-off vote and becomes president for a second time. His rival, coca growers’ representative Evo Morales, leads a strengthened opposition.

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