The most recent entry in this thread concerning "Kiva country" Bolivia, was two years old and mentioned the fact that the people of Bolivia had just ratified a new constitution for their country in January 2009. Under their prior constitution, they had elected their first president who is a member of an indigenous ethnic group (Evo Morales) in 2005, and promulgation of the new constitution was one of President Morales's campaign platform planks. I wanted to learn more about Bolivia's most recent few years, and I am posting here some excerpts that I have copied from the website of the US Department of State. The full article, called "Background Note: Bolivia,"
can be read here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/35751.htm
According to the 2001 census, Bolivia’s ethnic distribution is estimated to be 55% indigenous, 15% European, and 30% mixed or mestizo (all categories are self-identified and answers vary widely depending on how questions are phrased). The largest of the approximately three dozen indigenous groups are the Quechua (29% or 2.5 million), Aymara (24% or 2 million), Chiquitano (1% or 180,000), and Guarani (1% or 125,000). No other indigenous groups represent more than 0.5% of the population. German, Croatian, Serbian, Asian, Middle Eastern, and other minorities also live in Bolivia. Many of these minorities descend from families that have lived in Bolivia for several generations.
Bolivia is one of the least developed countries in South America. Almost two-thirds of its people, many of whom are subsistence farmers, live in poverty. Population density ranges from less than one person per square kilometer in the southeastern plains to about 10 per square kilometer (25 per sq. mi.) in the central highlands. The annual population growth rate is about 1.97%.
The great majority of Bolivians are Roman Catholic, although Protestant denominations are expanding rapidly. Many indigenous communities interweave pre-Columbian and Christian symbols in their religious practices.
Approximately 90% of the children attend primary school but often for a year or less. The literacy rate is low in many rural areas. Under President Morales, a number of areas have been declared “illiteracy free” but the level of literacy is often quite basic, restricted to writing one’s name and recognizing numbers.
Important 20th century Bolivian artists include, among others, Guzman de Rojas, Arturo Borda, Maria Luisa Pacheco, and Marina Nunez del Prado. Bolivia has rich folklore. Its regional folk music is distinctive and varied. The “devil dances” at the annual Oruro carnival are among the great South American folkloric events, as is the lesser known carnival at Tarabuco.
A new constitution was promulgated February 7, 2009, replacing Bolivia’s 1967 constitution. The 2009 constitution provides for legislative, executive, judicial, and "electoral" branches of government.
The new constitution strengthens the executive branch and centralizes political and economic decision-making. It also provides new powers and responsibilities at the departmental, municipal, and regional areas, as well as in newly created indigenous autonomous areas.
Bolivia’s estimated 2009 gross domestic product (GDP) totaled $17.5 billion. Economic growth was estimated at about 3.7%, and inflation was estimated at about 0.3%. President Evo Morales nationalized the hydrocarbon sector and expropriated some large international companies,
including Entel (telecommunications) and Vinto (tin smelting). Increased state control of the economy continues to be a primary goal of the Morales administration.
Foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows have dwindled, as has long-term investment across most industrial sectors.
Bolivian exports were approximately $5.3 billion for 2009, up from $652 million in 1991. Imports were $4.4 billion in 2009. Bolivia enjoyed an estimated $900 million trade surplus in 2009. Hydrocarbons made up 38.6% of the exports, minerals 28.26%, manufacturing 27.82%, and agriculture 5.32%.
Bolivia’s trade with neighboring countries is growing, in part because of several regional preferential trade agreements. Bolivia is a member of the Andean Community (CAN) and enjoys nominally free trade with other member countries (Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia). Bolivia currently is focused on developing markets through its membership in Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) whose members include Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua.
Until recently, the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act (ATPDEA) allowed numerous Bolivian products to enter the United States duty-free, including alpaca and llama products and, subject to a quota, cotton textiles. Effective December 15, 2008, President George W. Bush suspended Bolivia’s participation in the program based on its failure to meet international counternarcotics obligations; meeting those obligations is a criterion in the U.S. statute which created the preference program. On June 30, 2009, President Barack Obama determined that Bolivia was not meeting the program’s eligibility criteria. This determination does not affect Bolivia’s eligibility for benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), which covers most of Bolivia’s exports to the United States.
Agriculture accounts for roughly 10.44% of Bolivia’s GDP. The amount of land cultivated by modern farming techniques is increasing rapidly in the Santa Cruz area, where climate permits two crops a year. Soybeans are the major cash crop, sold in the CAN market. The extraction of minerals and hydrocarbons accounts for another 14.24% of GDP and manufacturing around 11%.
The Government of Bolivia remains heavily dependent on foreign assistance to finance development projects. Estimates indicate that as of 2008, the government owed $4.6 billion to foreign creditors. Between 1986 and 1998, Bolivia attended seven rounds of negotiations with Paris Club creditors and received U.S. $1.35 billion of bilateral debt forgiveness. The United States forgave almost all of Bolivia’s bilateral debt between 1999 and 2002 and strongly supported efforts to have multilateral institutions do the same. Bolivia received U.S. $1.95 billion in debt relief from HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) in 1998 and HIPC II in 2001, including almost complete bilateral debt forgiveness.
In June 2005, the G-8 countries decided to provide renewed World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) debt relief for the 18 participant nations of HIPC I and II through the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI). Bolivia received U.S. $232.5 million in debt relief from the IMF in January 2006 and approximately U.S. $1.5 billion in debt relief from the World Bank in June 2006. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) forgave $1 billion in debt in March 2007.
Bolivia traditionally has maintained normal diplomatic relations with all hemispheric states except Chile. Relations with Chile, strained since Bolivia’s defeat in the War of the Pacific (1879-83) and its loss of the coastal province of Atacama, were severed from 1962 to 1975 in a dispute over the use of the waters of the Lauca River. Relations were resumed in 1975, but broken again in 1978, over the inability of the two countries to reach an agreement that might have granted Bolivia sovereign access to the sea. They are maintained today below the ambassadorial level.
Under President Morales, relations between Bolivia and Cuba have improved considerably, and Cuba has sent doctors and teachers to Bolivia.
Relations with Venezuela are close, with the Venezuelan Government providing financial assistance to Bolivian municipalities, the armed forces, and the police since Morales took office.
The Bolivian Government announced in September 2007 that it would pursue diplomatic relations with Iran and Libya, with plans to cooperate in the petrochemical industry and increase Bolivian exports to both countries.
The United States and Bolivia have traditionally had cordial and cooperative relations. Development assistance from the United States to Bolivia dates from the 1940s; the U.S. remains a major partner for economic development, improved health, democracy, and the environment. In 1991, the U.S. Government forgave a $341 million debt owed by Bolivia to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as well as 80% ($31 million) of the amount owed to the Department of Agriculture for food assistance. The United States has also been a strong supporter of forgiveness of Bolivia’s multilateral debt under the HIPC initiatives.
The United States Government channels its development assistance to Bolivia through USAID. USAID is well known in Bolivia, especially in rural areas where thousands of projects have been implemented. USAID’s programs in Bolivia provide economic opportunities for disadvantaged populations through business development and trade, provide farmers with alternatives to illicit coca cultivation, improve food security, improve family health, strengthen democratic institutions, and promote sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity conservation.
Bilateral relations have deteriorated sharply during the Morales administration, as the Bolivian Government escalated public attacks against the U.S. Government and began to dismantle key partnerships. In June 2008, the government endorsed the expulsion of USAID from Bolivia’s largest coca-growing region. In a dramatic action which culminated a period of intense Bolivian Government hostility toward the United States, in September 2008, President Morales accused Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg of conspiring against the government, declared him "persona non grata," and expelled him from Bolivia. President Morales never offered proof for his accusation, which the U.S. Government rejected as baseless. In a reciprocal action, the Department of State expelled Bolivian Ambassador Gustavo Guzman later that month. In November 2008, President Morales expelled the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from the country, ending a 35-year history of engagement against narcotics production and trafficking.
Since May 2009, the U.S. and Bolivian governments have engaged in a dialogue to improve relations. The Bolivian Government has proposed a new framework agreement to define relations, which is being negotiated as part of the bilateral dialogue. In the meantime, U.S. assistance programs to promote health and welfare, advance economic development, and fight narcotics production and trafficking remain active.