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, indigenous 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. In December 2009, President MORALES easily won reelection, and his party took control of the legislative branch of the government, which will allow him to continue his process of change. In October 2011, the country held its first judicial elections to appoint judges to the four highest courts.
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
Bolivia ranks at or near the bottom among Latin American countries in several areas of health and development, including poverty, education, fertility, malnutrition, mortality, and life expectancy. On the positive side, more children are being vaccinated and more pregnant women are getting prenatal care and having skilled health practitioners attend their births. Bolivia's income inequality is the highest in Latin America and one of the highest in the world. Public education is of poor quality, and educational opportunities are among the most unevenly distributed in Latin America, with girls and indigenous and rural children less likely to be literate or to complete primary school. The lack of access to education and family planning services helps to sustain Bolivia's high fertility rate - approximately three children per woman. Bolivia's lack of clean water and basic sanitation, especially in rural areas, contributes to health problems.
Almost 7% of Bolivia's population lives abroad, primarily to work in Argentina, Brazil, Spain, and the United States. In recent years, more restrictive immigration policies in Europe and the United States have increased the flow of Bolivian emigrants to neighboring Argentina and Brazil.
president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a five-year term and are eligible for re-election once; election last held on 6 December 2009 (next to be held in 2014)
Juan Evo MORALES Ayma reelected president; percent of vote - Juan Evo MORALES Ayma 64%; Manfred REYES VILLA 26%; Samuel DORIA MEDINA Arana 6%; Rene JOAQUINO 2%; other 2%
bicameral Plurinational Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional consists of Chamber of Senators or Camara de Senadores (36 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 total; 70 uninominal deputies directly elected from a single district, 7 "special" indigenous deputies directly elected from non-contiguous indigenous districts, and 53 plurinominal deputies elected by proportional representation from party lists; all deputies serve five-year terms)
Chamber of Senators and Chamber of Deputies - last held on 6 December 2009 (next to be held in 2014)
Chamber of Senators - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - MAS 26, PPB-CN 10; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - MAS 89, PPB-CN 36, UN 3, AS 2; note - as of 15 February 2013, the current composition of the Chamber of Deputies is: MAS 88, PPB-CN 37, UN 3, AS 2
highest court(s): Supreme Court or Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (consists of 12 judges); Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal (consists of 7 primary and 7 alternate magistrates); Plurinational Electoral Organ (consists of 7 members)
note - the 2009 constitution reformed the procedure for selecting judicial officials for the Supreme Court, Constitutional Tribunal, and the Plurinational Electoral Organ by direct national vote, which occurred in October 2011
judge selection and term of office:
Supreme Court and Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal judges elected by popular vote from list of candidates pre-selected by Plurinational Legislative Assembly for 6-year terms); Plurinational Electoral Organ members - 6 judges elected by the Assembly and 1 appointed by the president; judges and members serve 6-year terms
Agro-Environmental Court; Council of the Judiciary; District Courts (in each of the 9 administrative departments)
Federation of Neighborhood Councils of El Alto or FEJUVE
Landless Movement or MST
National Coordinator for Change or CONALCAM
Sole Confederation of Campesino Workers of Bolivia or CSUTCB
Cocalero groups; indigenous organizations (including Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Eastern Bolivia or CIDOB and National Council of Ayullus and Markas of Quollasuyu or CONAMAQ); Interculturales union or CSCIB; labor unions (including the Central Bolivian Workers' Union or COB and Cooperative Miners Federation or FENCOMIN)
three equal horizontal bands of red (top), yellow, and green with the coat of arms centered on the yellow band; red stands for bravery and the blood of national heroes, yellow for the nation's mineral resources, and green for the fertility of the land
note:similar to the flag of Ghana, which has a large black five-pointed star centered in the yellow band; in 2009, a presidential decree made it mandatory for a so-called wiphala - a square, multi-colored flag representing the country's indigenous peoples - to be used alongside the traditional flag
Bolivia is a resource rich country with strong growth attributed to captive markets for natural gas exports. However, the country remains one of the least developed countries in Latin America because of state-oriented policies that deter investment and growth. 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 in exchange for a predetermined service fee. The global recession slowed growth, but Bolivia recorded the highest growth rate in South America during 2009. High commodity prices since 2010 sustained rapid growth and large trade surpluses. However, a lack of foreign investment in the key sectors of mining and hydrocarbons, along with growing conflict among social groups pose challenges for the Bolivian economy.
note:data cover general government debt, and includes debt instruments issued by government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities; the data include debt issued by subnational entities
general assessment: Bolivian National Telecommunications Company was privatized in 1995 but re-nationalized in 2007; the primary trunk system is being expanded and employs digital microwave radio relay; some areas are served by fiber-optic cable; system operations, reliability, and coverage have steadily improved.
most telephones are concentrated in La Paz, Santa Cruz, and other capital cities; mobile-cellular telephone use expanding rapidly and, in 2011, teledensity reached about 80 per 100 persons
country code - 591; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2011)
large number of radio and TV stations broadcasting with private media outlets dominating; state-owned and private radio and TV stations generally operating freely, although both pro-government and anti-government groups have attacked media outlets in response to their reporting (2010)
18-49 years of age for 12-month compulsory male and female military service; Bolivian citizenship required; 17 years of age for voluntary service; when annual number of volunteers falls short of goal, compulsory recruitment is effected, including conscription of boys as young as 14; 15-19 years of age for voluntary premilitary service, provides exemption from further military service (2013)
Chile and Peru rebuff Bolivia's reactivated claim to restore the Atacama corridor, ceded to Chile in 1884, but Chile offers instead unrestricted but not sovereign maritime access through Chile for Bolivian natural gas; contraband smuggling, human trafficking, and illegal narcotic trafficking are problems in the porous areas of the border with Argentina
world's third-largest cultivator of coca (after Colombia and Peru) with an estimated 30,000 hectares under cultivation in 2011, a decrease of 13 percent over 2010; third largest producer of cocaine, estimated at 265 metric tons potential pure cocaine in 2011, a 29 percent increase over 2010; transit country for Peruvian and Colombian cocaine destined for Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Europe; weak border controls; some money-laundering activity related to narcotics trade; major cocaine consumption