On Sunday 26 December Bolivia’s government abruptly ended a six-year freeze on fuel prices, raising the price of gasoline by 73% and diesel by 83%. Vice president Alvaro Garcia said this change in policy was necessary because the subsidy cost US$380 million a year- 2% of Bolivia’s gross domestic national product and US$150 million of the gasoline was smuggled into other countries and sold at higher prices. The cost of the subsidies was projected to increase to over US$1 billion in 2011.
Hernán Siles Zuazo took office in 1956 during a politically and economically unstable time in Bolivia and throughout Central America. There had been a succession of violent revolutions in the region. This was Siles’ first time as elected president, although he had previously had a brief stint as acting president while he was vice president.
Since the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement Party (MNR) overthrew the military junta in April 1952, Bolivia underwent major reformations in its political and institutional structures and economic policies. Aside from establishing universal suffrage, the government nationalized the tin mine business. It also set up the Mining Corporation of Bolivia (COMIBOL), a semi-governmental company, to take control of the mines. Because the miners made up a large part in the revolution and the tin mine was the most lucrative business in Bolivia, miners were granted great political power.
Since taking office in 2005, Bolivian President Evo Morales had an increasingly tenuous relationship with the domestic media. On multiple occasions he accused newspapers of being the mouthpieces of the opposition, particularly if they criticized a state policy. The growing polarization between Morales’ Movement for Socialism Party (MAS) and the opposition parties was often reflected in the “media war” between state-owned news outlets and privately owned companies. Parties on both sides perpetuated the war by threatening journalists across the political spectrum.
On August 15, 2011, some 1000 indigenous peoples from the Isiboro Secure Park (known by its Spanish Acronym TIPNIS) in Bolivia began their protest march against a highway project through the park and their traditional homes. The 500km march from the Amazonian town of Trinidad to La Paz was organized by many indigenous leaders, including Fernando Vargas, president of TIPNIS Native Communities, and Rosario Barradas of the Conference of Indigenous People.
Throughout the 90s, Bolivia came under increasing pressure from the World Bank to privatize public goods in order to fulfill loan conditionality. In September 1999, in response to this pressure, the Bolivian government auctioned off the municipal water system ‘SEMAPA’ of Cochabamba, a city of 800,000 residents. When the auction drew only one bidder, the government signed water resources over in a 40-year concession to Aguas del Tunari, a foreign-led consortium of private investors dominated by the Bechtel Corporation.