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.
Bolivia’s transition to a democratic government began in 1978 when then military dictator Hugo Banzer Suarez stepped down after international and internal pressure for Bolivia to hold democratic elections. While the Democratic Popular Union (Unidad Democratica y Popular, UDP), led by Hernan Siles Zuazo, won the 1978 elections, Juan Pereda Asbum, Banzer’s chosen successor, launched a military coup and declared the elections invalid.
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.
Social protest has played an important role in Bolivia's recent political history. Ever since the national revolution of 1952, civil society has found success in turning to forms of mass participatory direct action for meaningful social change, largely responsible for the removal of unpopular Presidential administrations from office.
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.