Bolivia Modern History

By | December 10, 2021

The region, known as Alto Peru until 1825, was conquered in 1538 by the Spaniards led by Hernando Pizarro, then by his brother Gonzalo. Included until 1776 in the viceroyalty of Peru, in 1563 it was however constituted as an autonomous subdivision as Real Audiencia de Charcas, with capital Chuquisaca (today Sucre). For a long time it was subject to the exploitation of the very rich silver and mercury mines, conducted without any scruple by the conquistadors. The adjustment work continued with the application of the New laws of the Indies (1542), the foundation or reorganization of many cities, the ecclesiastical arrangement of the territory. In 1624 the university of St. Francis Xavier in Chuquisaca and general conditions continued to improve, despite the recurring unrest.

In 1776 the Real Audiencia de Charcas was annexed to the new viceroyalty of Rio de la Plata, but soon after a series of revolts led by a descendant of the Incas, Túpac Amaru, put the colonial regime in danger (1780-82). The crisis of the Spanish monarchy in 1808 offered the favorable opportunity to the local forces: the intellectuals of Chuquisaca managed to drag the people with them (May 1808), starting a struggle that ended up extending, among alternate events, also to the peasant masses and to the Amerindians, giving rise to a very fragmented (guerilla de las republiquetas) and ferocious guerrilla warfare, until in 1824-25, with the intervention of J. de San Martín and above all of S. Bolívar, the fate did not turn in favor of the patriots. On August 6, 1825, a general assembly of Upper Peru proclaimed independence and a representative republican regime, adopting the name of the liberator Bolívar, which was later changed to Bolivia.

The turbulent political life that would have characterized much of the subsequent history of the Bolivia manifested itself from the first presidency of General AJ de Sucre. Instability and unrest were accompanied for a good part of the century by a situation of economic stagnation and relative decline of Bolivia compared to other South American countries. Furthermore, Bolivia was engaged in a state of open or latent conflict with neighboring countries for border issues or for the control of mineral deposits or forest resources: in the so-called Pacific War, quickly defeated, it lost the coastal region to Chile. of the Pacific (1884); the disputes with Brazil ended with the cession of territory, while the question of Gran Chaco lasted until giving rise to a violent conflict with Paraguay (1932-35), which ended with further territorial losses for the Bolivia (Treaty of Buenos Aires, 1938).

The difficulties following the military defeat and even more those associated with the Great Depression put an end to the relative economic growth of the late 19th century. and paved the way for a new phase of political precariousness, which lasted until 1952. In that year a popular revolt promoted by the nationalist and populist-inspired Movimiento nacionalista revolucionario (MNR), allowed V. Paz Estenssoro to assume the presidency of the Republic (which he was elected in 1951) and to initiate a policy of modernization of the country (among the reforms: universal suffrage and nationalization of tin mines). In 1964, a military coup ousted Paz Estenssoro and led R. Barrientos Ortuño to the presidency .. A harsh repression fell on workers’ organizations, while the guerrillas promoted by E. Che Guevara in the Santa Cruz department in 1967 were quickly defeated. On the death of Barrientos (1969) there was a convulsive succession of military coups; A. Siles Salinas, A. Ovando Candía, JJ Torres, a progressive soldier supported by the trade unions and left-wing forces, I. Banzer Suárez followed one another in power. In 1978 the latter called elections, which were later canceled due to irregularities committed by the military; no democratic outcome emerged from those of 1979 and 1980, when yet another violent military coup d’état brought L. García Meza to power; after his deposition (1981) three other military governments followed. For Bolivia economics and business, please check

But the military regime seemed increasingly discredited, also because it was directly involved in the international drug trafficking, a source of corruption at all levels of the public administration. In 1982 the military therefore decided to return power to the Congress elected in 1980, which designated H. Siles Zuazo as President of the Republic. Since then, the succession of regularly elected governments represented progress on the path of democratization of the Bolivia, but did not offer a solution to the most serious problems, that is to the predominant role of the armed forces. in political life and the dependence of the Bolivian economy on drug production and trade: a significant part of the GDP was connected with drug trafficking and about 50% of imports were paid for in narcodollars; moreover, the cultivation of coca represented the only source of livelihood for part of the peasants. The economic incentives offered to farmers who changed cultivation and the promise to avoid extradition to the United States to drug traffickers willing to collaborate with the law did not have much effect; at the same time, during the early 1990s there emerged increasingly clear evidence of the involvement of leading members of the administration in drug trafficking.

In the general elections of 1993 the MNR prevailed, which led G. Sánchez to the presidencyde Lozada, who pursued a policy of social and economic reforms by accelerating privatization. Like his predecessors, Sánchez de Lozada was opposed by large sections of society for the economic measures adopted and for the program prepared for the eradication of coca plantations. The presence of the army in the Cocharé valley (Cochabamba) raised protests across the country, which only ceased in 1994 when the government decided to withdraw the armed forces and to support locally organized crop conversion programs. Opposition to government measures continued in all sectors, from health to public education, to transport, until the peasants’ protest marches against the introduction of a new agricultural law in 1996. Banzer Suárez, who became president of the Republic. The government’s goal of destroying the country’s coca plantations by 2002, not accompanied by adequate incentives to promote alternative crops, sparked riots in the Cochabamba region, which escalated in subsequent years. Banzer Suárez’s mandate was also marked by episodes of corruption at the top of the ruling class and a wave of strikes.

When Banzer Suárez died, in 2002 Sánchez de Lozada was re-elected, who prevailed over the leader of the MAS (Movimiento al socialismo) JE Morales Ayma, an Indian representative of coca growers (cocaleros); but the year after the plan to export natural gas to the United States and Mexico through a Chilean port it generated internal opposition that saw different interests converge and resulted in riots in some Andean areas. Faced with dozens of civilian deaths and divisions in the government, Sánchez de Lozada was forced to resign and was replaced by vice president C. Mesa. In 2004 Mesa signed a gas export agreement with Argentina and signed a historic agreement with Peru, which provided for the passage of gas through a Peruvian port. Despite these results, a new and violent cycle of protests and riots, which began in early 2005 following the sharp rise in the price of hydrocarbons, also forced Mesa to resign. In 2005 early elections decreed the victory of Morales, who immediately started the nationalization of gas reserves, by imposing state control over foreign companies active in Bolivia, and an agrarian reform in favor of the poorest part of the population, by committing to end all forms of sanctions against coca growers. The four eastern provinces, the richest in the country, opposed the policy of nationalization and redistribution of wealth. In 2009, a referendum ratified the new Constitution, which broadens the rights of the indigenous population, imposes the limit of 5,000 hectares for land ownership and cancels the status of official religion for Catholicism. The following year Morales was re-elected to the presidency of the country, and reconfirmed for a third term in the consultations of 2014, while in the referendum held in February 2016 on 51, 3% of the country expressed a negative opinion on the constitutional reform proposal that would have allowed them to reapply for the fourth time in the 2019 presidential elections; nevertheless, in November of the following year the Constitutional Tribunal authorized the politician to run for a fourth term. At the consultations, held in October 2019 in a climate of strong social tensions, Morales confirmed himself as president in the first round with 46.8% of the votes, but the following month – following the violent street demonstrations against his attempt to perpetuating himself in power with electoral fraud, establishing an authoritarian regime in the control of justice and the media – he was forced to resign, taking over from interim in the office J. Áñez Chávez. At the presidential consultations held in October 2020, L. Arce won the first round, with approximately 54% of the votes, sanctioning the return to power of the Mas after the resignation of Morales.

Bolivia Modern History