Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon BOLIVAR, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; much of its subsequent history has consisted of a series of nearly 200 coups and countercoups. Democratic civilian rule was established in 1982, but leaders have faced difficult problems of deep-seated poverty, social unrest, and illegal drug production. In December 2005, Bolivians elected Movement Toward Socialism leader Evo MORALES president - by the widest margin of any leader since the restoration of civilian rule in 1982 - after he ran on a promise to change the country's traditional political class and empower the nation's poor, indigenous majority. However, since taking office, his controversial strategies have exacerbated racial and economic tensions between the Amerindian populations of the Andean west and the non-indigenous communities of the eastern lowlands. In December 2009, President MORALES easily won reelection, and his party took control of the legislative branch of the government, which will allow him to continue his process of change.
Bolivia experiences volcanic activity in Andes Mountains on the border with Chile; historically active volcanoes in this region are Irruputuncu (elev. 5,163 m), which last erupted in 1995 and Olca-Paruma
the clearing of land for agricultural purposes and the international demand for tropical timber are contributing to deforestation; soil erosion from overgrazing and poor cultivation methods (including slash-and-burn agriculture); desertification; loss of biodiversity; industrial pollution of water supplies used for drinking and irrigation
president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a five-year term and are eligible for re-election; election last held on 6 December 2009 (next to be held in 2014)
Juan Evo MORALES Ayma reelected president; percent of vote - Juan Evo MORALES Ayma 64%; Manfred REYES VILLA 26%; Samuel DORIA MEDINA Arana 6%; Rene JOAQUINO 2%; other 2%
bicameral Plurinational Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional consists of Chamber of Senators or Camara de Senadores (36 seats; members are elected by proportional representation from party lists to serve five-year terms) and Chamber of Deputies or Camara de Diputados (130 seats total; 70 uninominal deputies directly elected from a single district, 7 "special" indigenous deputies directly elected from non-contiguous indigenous districts, and 53 plurinominal deputies elected by proportional representation from party lists; all deputies serve five-year terms)
Chamber of Senators and Chamber of Deputies - last held on 6 December 2009 (next to be held in 2014)
Chamber of Senators - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - MAS 26, PPB-CN 10; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - MAS 89, PPB-CN 36, UN 3, AS 2
Supreme Court or Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (judges elected by popular vote from list of candidates pre-selected by Assembly for six-year terms); District Courts (one in each department); Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal (seven primary or titulares and seven alternate or suplente magistrates elected by popular vote from list of candidates pre-selected by Assembly for six-year terms; to rule on constitutional issues (at least two candidates must be indigenous)); Plurinational Electoral Organ (seven members elected by the Assembly and the president; one member must be of indigenous origin to six-year terms); Agro-Environmental Court (judges elected by popular vote from list of candidates pre-selected by Assembly for six-year terms; to run on agro-environmental issues); provincial and local courts (to try minor cases)
Bolivia-National Convergence or PPB-CN [Manfred REYES VILLA]; Fearless Movement or MSM [Juan DE GRANADO Cosio]; Movement Toward Socialism or MAS [Juan Evo MORALES Ayma]; National Unity or UN [Samuel DORIA MEDINA Arana]; People or Gente [Roman LOAYZA]; Social Alliance or AS [Rene JOAQUINO]
Bolivian Workers Central or COR; Federation of Neighborhood Councils of El Alto or FEJUVE; Landless Movement or MST; National Coordinator for Change or CONALCAM; Sole Confederation of Campesino Workers of Bolivia or CSUTCB
Cocalero groups; indigenous organizations (including Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Eastern Bolivia or CIDOB and National Council of Ayullus and Markas of Quollasuyu or CONAMAQ); labor unions (including the Central Bolivian Workers' Union or COB and Cooperative Miners Federation or FENCOMIN)
three equal horizontal bands of red (top), yellow, and green with the coat of arms centered on the yellow band; red stands for bravery and the blood of national heroes, yellow for the nation's mineral resources, and green for the fertility of the land
note:similar to the flag of Ghana, which has a large black five-pointed star centered in the yellow band; in 2009, a presidential decree made it mandatory for a so-called wiphala - a square, multi-colored flag representing the country's indigenous peoples - to be used alongside the traditional flag
Bolivia is one of the poorest and least developed countries in Latin America. Following a disastrous economic crisis during the early 1980s, reforms spurred private investment, stimulated economic growth, and cut poverty rates in the 1990s. The period 2003-05 was characterized by political instability, racial tensions, and violent protests against plans - subsequently abandoned - to export Bolivia's newly discovered natural gas reserves to large northern hemisphere markets. In 2005, the government passed a controversial hydrocarbons law that imposed significantly higher royalties and required foreign firms then operating under risk-sharing contracts to surrender all production to the state energy company in exchange for a predetermined service fee. After higher prices for mining and hydrocarbons exports produced a fiscal surplus in 2008, the global recession in 2009 slowed growth. Nevertheless, Bolivia recorded the highest growth rate in South America that year. During 2010 an increase in world commodity prices resulted in the biggest trade surplus in history. However, a lack of foreign investment in the key sectors of mining and hydrocarbons and higher food prices pose challenges for the Bolivian economy.
general assessment: Bolivian National Telecommunications Company (ENTEL) was privatized in 1995 but re-nationalized in 2007; the primary trunk system is being expanded and employs digital microwave radio relay; some areas are served by fiber-optic cable; system operations, reliability, and coverage have steadily improved.
most telephones are concentrated in La Paz, Santa Cruz, and other capital cities; mobile-cellular telephone use expanding rapidly and, in 2010, teledensity reached about 75 per 100 persons
country code - 591; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2010)
large number of radio and television broadcasting stations with private media outlets dominating; state-owned and private radio and television stations generally operating freely, although both pro-government and anti-government groups have attacked media outlets in response to their reporting (2010)
18-49 years of age for 12-month compulsory male and female military service; when annual number of volunteers falls short of goal, compulsory recruitment is effected, including conscription of boys as young as 14; 15-19 years of age for voluntary premilitary service, provides exemption from further military service (2011)
Chile and Peru rebuff Bolivia's reactivated claim to restore the Atacama corridor, ceded to Chile in 1884, but Chile offers instead unrestricted but not sovereign maritime access through Chile for Bolivian natural gas; contraband smuggling, human trafficking, and illegal narcotic trafficking are problems in the porous areas of the border with Argentina
world's third-largest cultivator of coca (after Colombia and Peru) with an estimated 35,000 hectares under cultivation in 2009, an increase of ten percent over 2008; third largest producer of cocaine, estimated at 195 metric tons potential pure cocaine in 2009, a 70 percent increase over 2006; transit country for Peruvian and Colombian cocaine destined for Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, and Europe; weak border controls; some money-laundering activity related to narcotics trade; major cocaine consumption