At Lake Titicaca there were agricultural
crops over 3,000 years ago. The area was conquered in
the 15th century by the Incarct and by the Spaniards in
1538. The indigenous people were subjected to brutal
exploitation. Independence from Spain was proclaimed in
1825. During the decades that followed, Bolivia lost
large territories in war. After a revolution in 1952,
the country went into economic crisis, and the military
took power in a coup in 1964.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Bolivia, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Just over 3,000 years ago, native cultures grew
around Lake Titicaca, where people began to keep llama
animals and grow potatoes and quinoa. Around 400–800 AD,
the city of Tiahuanaco became the center of a high
culture that stretched to today's Ecuador. For some
unknown reason, the Tiahuanaco culture collapsed in the
11th century, and today there are only ruins.
Tiahuanaco is believed to have had a great cultural
influence on the Incarque, which had its base in Peru.
During the expansion of the Incarct in the 14th century,
Bolivia fell under its rule. When the Spanish conquerors
came to South America in the 1530s, the Incarceration
was weakened by internal contradictions and quickly
collapsed. The Spaniards conquered Bolivia in 1538 and
called the country Alto Perú (Upper Peru).
In 1545, huge silver deposits were discovered in
Potosí, which quickly grew into the largest and richest
city of the Spanish Empire, filled with magnificent
palaces and churches. The prize was ruthless
exploitation of the indigenous people, who were forced
to work as slaves in the mines and often did not survive
more than a couple of years there. Potosí's significance
diminished just as quickly as the silver sintered around
Bolivia is founded
A series of revolts against the Spanish empire broke
out during the 17th and 18th centuries, but only after
1809 did a strong independence movement emerge. General
Antonio José de Sucre, one of South American freedom
hero Simón Bolívar's closest men, defeated the Spaniards
in Peru in 1824, after which Alto Perú proclaimed his
independence in 1825. The country was named after
Bolívar and Sucre became its first president. The
indigenous peoples still made up over 90 percent of the
population, but the country was ruled by the small
minority of Spanish kittens.
When Bolivia was founded, it was twice as large as
today. It was marked from the beginning by unstable
governments and constant military coups. The country was
further weakened by poor economy and deep social
In the so-called Salpet or Pacific War of 1879-1883,
Bolivia lost all of its mineral-rich coastal strip to
Chile. Additional areas in the Amazon, rich in natural
rubber, resigned to Brazil in the 1860s and early 1900s.
In a war of 1932–1935, partially staged by rival foreign
oil companies, Bolivia lost most of the Chaco area in
the southeast to Paraguay (see Geography and Climate).
New political parties
Bolivia became the world's second largest producer of
tin in the 20th century, but the poor majority did not
enjoy the wealth. During the 1930s and 1940s, new
nationalist and leftist political movements emerged that
challenged the traditional elite. Particularly
influential became the radical Revolutionary Nationalist
Movement (MNR). In the 1951 presidential election, MR's
candidate Victor Paz defeated Estenssoro, but he was
prevented by a military coup from taking office.
The military coup triggered an MNR-led popular
uprising, with the support of defected soldiers. In a
bloody revolution in 1952, the military regime was
deposed and Paz Estenssoro became president. A
comprehensive reform program was initiated: the mines
were nationalized, universal suffrage was introduced and
a land reform was implemented. The national organization
COB (Central Obrera Boliviana), dominated by the mining
union, was formed and quickly became a factor of power.
During the second half of the 1950s, Bolivia ended up
in economic crisis, mainly due to large losses for the
tin mines. The government was forced into financial
tightening and needed to seek help from the United
States. COB protested and the split within the MNR
increased. The MNR board came to an abrupt end when Paz
Estenssoro was deposed by the military in 1964.
Price increases are withdrawn after protests
Violent protests erupt when the government abolishes
government subsidies on gasoline and diesel, leading to
around 80 percent price increases. In La Paz, police use
tear gas to disperse protesters at government buildings.
On New Year's Eve, after a short week of turmoil,
President Morales withdraws the decision to abandon
The retirement age is lowered
A new law is adopted which means that the retirement
age is lowered from 65 years to 58 years. The law also
covers those who work in the informal sector, with
so-called black jobs, provided they pay pension
Opposition Governor suspended
In Tarija, the regional assembly votes to shut down
Governor Mario Cossío, a leading opponent of President
Morales. Cossío is accused of corruption and the
suspension is in accordance with a new controversial law
which means that politicians facing "official charges"
are prohibited from holding office. The Regional
Assembly elects a new governor who belongs to MAS. Thus,
only two of Bolivia's nine regions have governors
belonging to the opposition.
State visit to Iran
President Morales visits Iran to secure Iranian
investment in Bolivia. After the trip, he reaffirms
Bolivia's plans to build a nuclear power plant with
Lynching begets debate
A lynching case raises a debate about disputes
between local communities' legal opinion and national
legislation (see June 2010). The case
concerns three brothers who were charged with murder and
then beaten, tied and buried alive. Critics point to
ambiguities in the boundary between customary law and
national laws. In 2010 alone, 20 lynchings have been
reported to have taken place in Bolivia (see Political
The confiscation of land continues
The government states that it has confiscated over
110,000 hectares of land that is said to be in the
trench or unfair. A significant part of the ground has
been taken from a prominent opposition entrepreneur.
Civilians are trained in the army
The government states that civilians have started
training in army camps, something that the opposition
criticizes as a first step towards creating a
Court approves ranch confiscation
A court gives the government the right to confiscate
a 15,000-acre ranch from an American livestock breeder
accused of treating its workers as slaves. The land is
to be distributed among a few thousand Guarani families.
Customary law becomes law
A law is passed which means that indigenous peoples'
rights are equated with the national judicial system.
Morales re-elected as a trade unionist
President Evo Morales is re-elected president of the
cocoa growers' union, a post he has held for over two
decades. The election is criticized by the opposition,
pointing to growing crime linked to the drug trade.
Protests against wage policy
Strikes and demonstrations are carried out against
the government's wage policy.
Electricity companies are nationalized
President Evo Morales orders that four electricity
companies be nationalized. He explains that the state
thus controls 80 percent of the country's power
"Mother Earth Department" is set up
Morales announces a Mother Earth ministry for
planetary rights and says he would like to create an
international court with the power to punish nations
that do not comply with emissions reduction agreements.
In addition, a campaign for planting ten million trees,
as many as Bolivia's inhabitants, is being started.
The government party strongly in regional and
In accordance with the new constitution, for the
first time, direct elections are held for the positions
of governors and members of the regional assemblies in
all nine ministries, as well as to the mayor and council
of the municipalities. The support for the presidential
party MAS remains high. The ruling party wins in six of
the nine ministries, including in Pando, which belongs
to the natural resource-rich eastern part of the
country. However, MAS loses the mayor's election in the
capital La Paz.
New government appointed
President Evo Morales presents his new government.
Only seven out of 20 ministers are from the former
government. Half of the ministers are women, but the
heaviest items (foreign, economic, defense, domestic) go