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Bolivia Essay, Research Paper


Bolivia is bounded on the north and east by Brazil, on the southeast by Paraguay, on the south by Argentina, and on the west

by Chile and Peru. Bolivia, along with Paraguay, is the only South American country without direct access to the sea. Going in

the northern-southern direction the maximum length of Bolivia is about 1530km (about 950 mi); its width, in an eastern-western

direction, is about 1450 km (about 900 mi). The area is 1,098,581 sq. km (about 424,165 sq. mi), making it only fifth in size

(after Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and Colombia) of all South American countries.


The main physical feature of Bolivia is the Andes Mountains, which extend north to south across the western part of the

country. On the west, near Chile, is the Cordillera Occidental, or western range, and on the northeast is the Cordillera Real, the

main range of the Andes. The Cordillera Real contains some of the highest Andean peaks, notably Ancohuma (6550 m/ 21,489

ft) and Illampu (6485 m/21,276 ft).


Bolivia is divided into three distinct regions: the Altiplano; the yungas, a series of well watered and forested valleys embracing

the eastern mountain slopes and valleys; and the llanos, or the Amazon-Chaco lowlands. The Altiplano is about 800 km (about

500 mi) long and about 130 km (about 80 mi) wide and lies between the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Real. The

northern part, where the bulk of the population and industry of Bolivia is found, is Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world.

Stretching east and northeast from the mountains are the Amazonian plains containing large grassy tracts and dense tropical

forests. Much of this region becomes swampland during the wet season (December through February); large areas, however,

lie above the flood line and are rich grazing lands. In the southeast, separated from the Amazonian plains by the Chiquitos

highlands (about 1070 m/3500 ft) are the dry, semitropical plains of the Chaco.


In the northern valleys and plains, the draining system consists of the Beni River and its main partner, the Guapor? River, which

forms part of the boundary with Brazil; and the Mamor? River. The Pilcomayo River, the chief river of southeastern Bolivia,

flows through the Chaco to feed the Paraguay River, thus eventually draining into the R?o de la Plata. The Desaguadero River,

outlet for Lake Titicaca, feeds Lake Poop? (not poo poo) to the southeast.


Although entirely within the tropics, Bolivia, as a result of its different elevations, has a wide range of climates. In the higher

regions, the climate is cool and dry, but generally good in spite of the cutting winds, the thinness of atmosphere, and the daily

extremes of temperature. In the lower region, the climate is warmer. The mean annual temperatures range from about 8.3?C

(about 47?F) in the Altiplano to about 26.1?C (about 79?F) in the eastern lowlands.

Plants and Animals

Because of the many variations in elevation, plant and animal species of nearly all climactic zone are found in Bolivia. A coarse

grass grows on the largely barren high plateau in the west. The llama, found chiefly on the Altiplano, is an efficient beast of

burden. Alpacas and vicu?as also inhabit the plateau, along with monkeys, pumas, jaguars, armadillos, and a variety of reptiles,

birds, and insects that are found predominantly in the tropical Amazon Basin.

Important Products

Deposits of metallic ores are large and varied. Mineral resources include tin, lead, silver, copper, antimony, zinc, sulfur, bismuth,

gold, and tungsten. Salt, petroleum, and natural gas are also found. The soil of certain regions, mostly the valleys east of Santa

Cruz (the yungas), is extremely fertile. The yearly output of hydroelectric plants in the late 1980’s amounted to 1.1 billion kwh,

74% of Bolivia’s total

Agriculture, Fishing, and Forestry

Farming is extremely important to the Bolivian economy, employing nearly half the labor force and accounting for about 23% of

the annual domestic products. Bolivia’s agriculture suffers from old farming methods, uneven population distribution, and

inadequate transportation. Although, it’s now self-sufficient in the production of sugar, rice, and meat, Bolivia must still import

certain foods. The main Bolivian crops are potatoes sugarcane, cotton, coffee, maize, rice, and wheat; a major share of farm

income comes from the illicit growing and processing of coca leaves, the source of cocaine. Fishing is a relatively unimportant

industry in Bolivia. The lack of transportation has prevented large-scale exploitation of wealth in the Bolivian forests, which

cover more than half of the country?s area.

Mining, Manufacturing, and Trade

Mining, a major industry in Bolivia, was delayed in the late l980’s by weak prices in world markets. Bolivia has long been one

of the world’s leading producers of tin. In 1952, its three major tin-mining operations were put under the Corporaci?n Minera

de Bolivia (COMIBOL). Most of the tin mines are located in the vicinity of Oruro; the annual output of tin in the late 1980’s

was about 7000 metric tons. Also mined are tungsten, lead, zinc, copper, and silver Petroleum and natural gas production

increased in importance in the 1960’s and early 1970s; by the late 1980’s Bolivia was virtually self-sufficient in petroleum.

Manufacturing enterprises are on a small scale; industry accounts for about 11% of the gross domestic product and employs

9% of the labor force. Sugar refining, leather working tobacco processing and the manufacture of cement, chemicals, paper,

furniture, glass, explosives, and matches are key industries; more than two-thirds of all manufacturing is in La Paz

Bolivia has long been dependent on mineral exports. Natural gas accounted for 36% of export earnings in the late l98O’s, and

tin provided 13%. Silver, antimony, lead, copper, zinc, tungsten, coffee, and sugar are also important exports. Imports consist

mainly of machinery, motor vehicles, electric equipment, and manufactured goods. In the late 1980’s annual imports totaled

about $730 million, and exports about $724 million. The United States, Argentina, and Brazil are Bolivia’s main traders

Important/lnteresting Places

The constitutional capital of Bolivia is Sucre (population, 1988 estimate, 95,635); La Paz (1,049.800), the largest city, is the

administrative capital. Other important cities are Santa Cruz (1987 estimate, greater city, 577,800), a major trade center;

Cochabamba (1988 estimate,377,259), in a fertile farming region; Oruro (195439), in the mining district; and Potosi (114092),

also in a mineral-producing area.


The territory of Bolivia, a part of the ancient empire of the Incas, was conquered in 1538 by Hernando Pizarro, younger

brother of the Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro, who subdued Peru, heart of the Inca Empire. Within the next 40 years,

Spanish settlements were formed at Sucre, Potosi, La Paz, and Cochabamba, and numerous silver mines, in which The Native

American population was compelled to labor, were opened. For some 200 years, the area, known as the Audiencia of

Charcas, was one of the most prosperous and populated centers in the Spanish colonies; Potosi may have been the largest city

in the Western Hemisphere. The area began to decline in the 18th century. and by the end of it, the mining industry was in a

state of stagnation.

Revolts in 1809 led to the Wars of Independence. Bolivia declared its independence on August 6, 1825, and took the name

Bolivia on August 11. A constitution drafted by the South American revolutionary leader Sim?n Bol?var, was adopted by a

congress at Chuquisaca in l826. It put supreme authority in a president chosen for life

From the beginning of its national existence, Bolivia was in chronic revolution and civil war. The first president, General Antonio

Jose de Sucre, was expelled from the country after holding office for only two years. For a while (1336-39), Bolivia was in a

confederation with Peru, but a Chilean invasion brought an effective end to it, increasing the turbulence. Short wars and disputes

with both Peru and Chile followed.

Boundary Disputes

By treaties made in 1866 and 1874 regarding the disputed Atacama Desert, famed for its rich nitrate fields, the 24th parallel of

south latitude was adopted as the Chile-Bolivia boundary line in that region. In addition, various customs and mining

concessions in Bolivian Atacama were granted to Chile. Disputes came between the two countries over the provisions, and in

1879 Chile seized the Bolivian port of Antofagasta. In the resulting struggle, called the War of the Pacific, Bolivia and its ally

Peru were defeated by Chile. Bolivia was stripped of its one seacoast possession becoming a landlocked country. A dispute

with Brazil concerning the possession of the Acre region was settled in 1903, with a bargain of about 180,000 sq. km (about

70000 sq. mi) to Brazil in return for a money indemnity and small territorial compensations elsewhere.

The Bolivian government then became involved in boundary disputes with Argentina, Peru, and Paraguay. A peaceful solution

of the dispute with Argentina was reached in 1925. Peru and Bolivia settled disputes over the peninsula of Copacabana by

appointing in the l93O’s a joint decision to decide the border.

The Paraguay-Bolivia boundary dispute arose over the Chaco Boreal, a low region lying north of the Paraguay river and west

of the Paraguay River and extending to the undisputed boundary of Bolivia. Both Bolivia and Paraguay claimed the entire

territory. In July 1932, an undeclared war broke out. A peace treaty was signed in July 1933.

Since the founding of the United Nations in 1945, Bolivia has desired that the General Assembly consider its want to regain a

seaport on the Pacific coast and has also approached the matter before the Organization of American States. Chile, opposing

Bolivia’s ambitions, alternatively declared Arica a free port in 1953 and granted Bolivia special customs and warehousing areas.


Bolivia is a republic governed under a constitution passed in 1947. For purposes, the republic is divided into nine major political

divisions, called departments: Santa Cruz El Beni, Tarija, Potosi, La Paz, Chuquisaca, Pando, Cochabamba, and Oruro. The

president is General Hugo Banzer.


Executive power is put in a president and vice president, elected for terms of four years by direct popular vote of married

persons over the age of 18 and single persons over 21. Neither can be reelected to an immediate succeeding term. The

president appoints the cabinet. Among other presidential powers, is the right to rule by decree.

Health and Welfare

Health conditions are poor in Bolivia. In the mid-1980’s the country had one physician for every 1600 inhabitants. The infant

mortality rate is among the highest in South America; malaria, dysentery, and tuberculosis are common, and there was a serious

outbreak of yellow fever in the late 1980’s. Medical services and hospitals are particularly inadequate in rural areas. Bolivia has

a comprehensive social insurance plan, but it covers less than half the working people.


The Bolivian congress is composed of a senate of 27 members (3 from each department) and a chamber of deputies of 130

members. All are elected for 4-year terms.

Political Parties

The principal political Parties are the National Revolutionary Movement of the Left(MNRI), and National Revolutionary

Movement (MNR), and Nationalist Democratic Action (ADN).

Local Government

Bolivia is divided into nine departments administered by prefects appointed by the President. Each department is divided into

provinces administered by subprefects appointed by the president. Important cities and towns have popularly elected councils.

Judiciary and Defense

Justice is administered by the supreme court, which is composed of l2 members elected by the congress to 10-year terms, and

by district and local courts. Military training is common, but in practice only a small percentage of those registered for service

are drafted. In the late 1980s, the combined strength of the armed forces was 28,000.


Although many of the largest mining operations were nationalized during the 1950’s, successive Bolivian governments have

encouraged private industrial development and actively sought foreign investment capital. Annual budget figures for the late

1980’s show revenues and expenditures balanced at about $2.9 billion.

Currency and Banking

The basic unit of currency is the boliviano equivalent to I million old Bolivian pesos (3.07 bolivianos equal U.S. $I; 1990). The

Banco Central de Bolivia is the sole bank of issue. Several state-owned development banks provide investment credits to small

mining and agricultural operations. Foreign and domestic private financial institutions also operate in the country.

Political Instability

The period after 1930 was marked by further internal strife. In that year, a revolution overthrew President Hernando Siles, who

had governed for two years without convening the national legislature. Daniel Salamanca, elected president in 1931, was

overthrown in 1934 by a clique under Vice President Tedjada Sorzano, who in turn was ousted by a military junta led by

Colonel David Toro. Toro was largely successful in his attempts to extricate the country from the desperate conditions resulting

from the world depression and the Chaco conflict with Paraguay. He made enemies, however, in influential quarters and in

1937 he was ousted by a group led by Lieutenant Colonel Germ?n Busch, chief of the general staff.

In 1938, during Busch’s second term as president, a new constitution was abolished. Busch abolished the new constitution in

April 1939, however, and set up a totalitarian state. Four months later he was found dead of a bullet wound, an alleged suicide.

General Carlos Quintanilla, who then assumed the presidency, restored the I938 constitution, and stated that the army would

exercise control until new elections could he held.

In 1940, General Enrique Pe?aranda was elected president, and on April 7, 1943 during World War II, he announced state of

war against the Axis powers In December 1943, Pe?aranda was ousted in a coup staged by the National Revolutionary

Movement (Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, or MNR), a party that included pro-Axis sympathizers. The new

government, headed by Lieutenant Colonel Gualberto Villarroel, was compelled by economic pressures to maintain good

relations with the Allied power. Villarroel headed a totalitarian regime until he was overthrown and killed in July 1946.

The government continually faced opposition from both left and right, and after the discovery of a Communist plot early in

1950, the Communist party was outlawed.

Rule by Army

In the ensuing two years, the military government succeeded in instituting reforms in tin-mining operations, including reopening

the industry to private and foreign investment. Barrientos, who was elected to the presidency as a civilian in July 1966, was

forced, however, to depend heavily on armed force to put down Communist-led guerrilla movements concentrated in the

mountainous mining regions. The Bolivian army reportedly smashed the rebel forces in October 1967, in a pitched battle near

the village of Vallegrande. Che Guevara, aide to Cuban Premier Fidel Castro, was captured in that encounter and executed

shortly afterward. Barrientos was killed in the crash of a helicopter in April 1969 and a series of short-lived governments

followed, most led by military men. General Juan Jos? Torres Gonz?les was overthrown by Colonel Hugo Banzer Su?rez in

August 1971. The Banzer regime moved from an relatively moderate position to full military control in 1974. Banzer stepped

down in 1978, pending restoration of civilian government, but elections in 1979 and 1980 were each followed by renewed

military intervention. By 1982, the country?s earnings from tin production had declined, and foreign debt continued to rise. The

illegal export of cocaine was thriving, and the U.S. was pressing Bolivia to take decisive steps against the drug traffic.

In October 1982, Hern?n Siles Zuazo was declared as president; he faced several cabinet problems and was unable to resolve

problems brought on by international banks After an inconclusive popular election, Congress chose Victor Paz Estenssoro as

president in August l985. His government?s attempts to cut down coca production and the sale of cocaine, aided by a

contingent of U.S. troops from July to November 1986, were only partially successful and very unpopular. Jaime Paz Zamora,

who finished third in the popular election of May 1989, became president of Bolivia in August after winning a congressional

runoff. The next presidential elections, held in June 1993, were won by mining entrepreneur Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.


The population of Bolivia(1989 est.) was 7,193,000. Population density was any about 7 per sq. km (about 17per sq. mi), one

of the lowest in South America. Roughly 55% of all the people are Native American, and about 30% are mestizo, or mixed

blood. The remaining inhabitants are white, mainly of Spanish descent. About 51% of the people live in rural areas.

The official languages of Bolivia are Spanish and two Native South American languages: Quechua and Aymara; about 40% of

the Native American population speaks no Spanish. Roman Catholicism is the religion of the great majority of the population


Primary education is nominally free and compulsory for children between the ages of six and 14, but the public schools, though

increasing in number, do not meet the needs of Bolivia, which has an illiteracy rate of nearly 35%.

In the late 1980’s about 888,200 pupils attended primary schools, some 211,500 attended secondary schools, and about

97,200 were enrolled in institutions of higher education. Bolivia has ten universities: at Sucre, La Paz (two), Cochabamba,

Llallagua, Oruro, Potosi, Santa Cruz, Tarija, and Trinidad. Saint Francis Xavier University (1624), in Sucre, is one of the oldest

in the Americas. The University of San Andr?s (1830), in La Paz, is the largest university in Bolivia with a student enrollment of

about 37,000.


In dress, language, architecture, and life-style, the large Native American population follows the ways of its ancestors with an

admixture of modified Spanish traditions. Clothing is colorful and suited to life in high altitudes. Holidays and religious festivals

are celebrated by dancing and festivities. The Spanish-speaking population, which is largely European in ancestry, and is

educated and better off economically, has adopted some of the Native American customs but generally follows Western


Transportation and Communication

The total Bolivian railroad tracks span about 3640km (about 2260 mi). Railroads connect the landlocked country to ports on

both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The principal line connects La Paz with the free port of Antofagasta, Chile.

About 40,990 km (about 25,470 mi) of roads exist in Bolivia; only a few are hard-surfaced, and many are passable only in the

dry season. The national airline, Lloyd A?reo Boliviano, provides regular air service to the major Bolivian cities, with other Latin

American countries, and with the U.S. About 14,000km (about 8,700 mi) of rivers are navigable by small boats.

About 3,939,100 radio sets, 447,500 television receivers, and 182,400 telephones were in use by the late l980’s. Bolivia has

about 13 daily newspapers.


Bolivia’s labor force exceeded 1.7 million in the late l980’s. Nearly the entire non-farm labor force is organized, most of it in

unions belonging to the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), the central labor federation. Peasant unions were established after the

1952 revolution.

Important People

In May 1951, the exiled MNR leader Victor Paz Estenssoro won nearly half the presidential election vote. Because no

candidate had a clear majority of the vote, election of a president from among the three leading candidates fell to Congress. In

order to prevent the election of Paz, the incumbent president, Harrique Urriolagoitia, placed the government under the control

of a military junta and resigned. General Hugo Ballivi?n was appointed president, but in April 1952 his government was

overthrown by the MNR, and Paz returned from exile to assume the presidency. The Bolivian government embarked on a

pro-labor, anti-Communist program, the key features of which were the nationalization of tin mines, the redistribution of land

from seized estates, and the diversification Of the economy. Throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, the Bolivian economy

suffered from a steady drop in world tin prices and from inflation. The tin mines proved consistently non-profitable; government

efforts to reduce the size of the force employed in the mines and to restrain wage increases met with resistance from on that

extended the economic authority of the government and permitted the reelection of an incumbent president. Paz was reelected

in 1964, but many of his earlier supporters left him, charging that the MNR was less reformist, and more oppressive than it

purported to be. Also, the government policies proved generally ineffective in meeting the existing economic problems. Paz was

overthrown in November in the aftermath of an uprising by miners, and the leftist unions. The Bolivian constitution prevented the

reelection of Paz in 1956, but Vice President Hern?n Siles Zuazo won the election as the MNR candidate; the result of this

election was a continuity of policy. Paz was reelected in 1960 and in the following year pressed for the adoption of a new

constitution and his government was succeeded by a military junta headed by his former vice president, Lieutenant General

Ren? Barrientos Ortu?o. There are not many other well known people to speak of.


The people who are in Bolivia are 95% Roman Catholic. Because of this, they have the same religious holidays as American

Christians. As far as national holidays are concerned, they have they?re independence day on the 6th of August, 1825 from



One of Bolivia’s favorite pastimes is soccer. They have competed in many international championships. Although the most

exciting chapter of Bolivia?s history was written on summer 1994, soccer in Bolivia did not begin the day the national team took

to the field in the first World Cup qualifying game in July 1993. Soccer has much deeper roots in Bolivia where it is nothing less

then a national passion.

Sharing borders with the two-time World Cup champion Argentina, and four-time World Cup champion Brazil, Bolivia’s

passion for soccer and its style has resulted in numerous victories in international competition dating back to the South

American Championship in 1962. Victories came in the 1957,1979 and 1993 Paz del Chaco Cups, but the proudest moment

came in 1963 in the America’s Cup, the continents most important soccer tournament. Bolivia won the Cup by beating Brazil in

the final game. Over the years, Argentina. Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay have won this prestigious tournament.

Bolivia had the privilege of being among the thirteen nations who participated in the very first world Cup tournament in Uruguay

in 1930. Bolivia returned to the World Cup action by invitation in 1950 and during World Cup victories in the Eliminatorias of

1994, marked Bolivia?s first ever qualification for the World Cup Finals.

Many teams founded in the early days continue the tradition of Bolivian soccer today. The Strongest, founded in 1908, is

regarded as a national treasure and has won many Bolivian national championships.

The most successful team today is Bolivar, founded in 1925. Other clubs of note include Wilstermann (1947), Oriente

Petrolero (1955), Blooming(1946), and San Jose (1942). Each club has won the national championship at least once and has

participated in the “Copa Libertadores de America.”

Bolivian soccer has had more than its share of heroes. In The late 1920’s And 1930’s, Mario Alborta was remarkable wing

who competed in the first World Cup. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the greatest Bolivian player was midfielder Victor Agustin

Ugarte. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Bolivian team was anchored by the likes of Wilfredo Camancho, who symbolized

Bolivia?s clutch performances on the way to victory in 1963 in Americas Cup, and Ramiro Blacutt, who played for Bayern of

Munich. During the 1980’s, outstanding players included Erwin Romero, Carlos Arngones, Carlos Borja, and Milton Melgar.

Today, young Bolivians idolize the heroes of the 1994 World Cup qualifying round: Marco Antonio Etcheverry (El Diablo) and

Erwin Platini.

Bolivia is an up and coming force in soccer, whose future rests with a very talented bunch of young players.


1. “Bolivia” Encarta 95 c.1995



3. My aunt and uncle Carol and Donald

As well as my newly adopted 2 yr. old cousin from Bolivia, Jamie

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