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Bolivia country profile


A country of extremes, landlocked Bolivia is the highest and most isolated country in South America.

It has the largest proportion of indigenous people, who make up around two-thirds of the population.

The country has the second-largest reserves of natural gas in South America, but there have been long-running tensions over the exploitation and export of the resource. Indigenous groups say the country should not relinquish control of the reserves, which they see as Bolivia's sole remaining natural resource.

Bolivia is also one of the world's largest producers of coca, the raw material for cocaine. A crop-eradication programme, though easing the flow of conditional US aid, has incensed many of Bolivia's poorest farmers for whom coca is often the only source of income.

  • Read more country profiles - Profiles by BBC Monitoring

Plurinational State of Bolivia

Capital: Sucre (official), La Paz (administrative)

  • Population 10.8 million

  • Area 1.1 million sq km (424,164 sq miles)

  • Major languages Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, Guarani

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 66 years (men), 71 years (women)

  • Currency boliviano

Getty Images

President (interim): Jeanine Áñez

image copyrightJORGE BERNAL/AFP/Getty Images

Opposition senator Jeanine Áñez declared herself interim president in November 2019, after President Evo Morales resigned in the tumultuous wake of a disputed election.

His bid to win another term in office led to street protests, and he resigned after the armed forces withdrew their support.

Ms Áñez took over when the Constitutional Court ruled that, after the resignations of Mr Morales, his deputy and the presidents of both chambers of Congress, she was next in line to assume the role without the need for Congressional approval.

Mr Morales, the first president to come from the Bolivia's indigenous majority, carried out a radical programme after winning power in 2005, aimed at addressing extreme social divisions and inequalities, combining standard left-wing ideas with an emphasis on traditional indigenous Andean values and concepts of social organisation.

Ms Áñez withdrew from the October 2020 presidential election, which was won by a former colleague of Mr Morales, Luis Arce.

He is due to assume office in early November, and has pledged to form a government of national unity.

image copyrightGetty Images

Bolivia's media landscape is dominated by private newspapers and broadcasters

With hundreds of stations, radio is important, especially in rural areas.

The authorities use legal, political and economic means to pressure independent media, says Freedom House.

Some key dates in Bolivia's history:

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionHugo Banzer formed a notoriously brutal military regime after taking power in the 1970s. He returned to power via the ballot box in 1997

1538 - Spanish conquer Bolivia, which becomes part of the vice-royalty of Peru.

1824 - Venezuelan freedom fighter Simon Bolivar, after whom Bolivia is named, liberates the country from Spanish rule. One year later, Bolivia becomes independent with Simon Bolivar as its president.

1952 - Peasants and miners overthrow military regime; Victor Paz Estenssoro returns from exile to become president and introduces social and economic reforms, including universal suffrage, nationalisation of tin mines and land redistribution, and improves education and the status of indigenous peoples.

1964 - Vice-President Rene Barrientos stages military coup, ushering in a period of political unrest punctuated by uprisings and military coups.

1989 - Leftist Jaime Paz Zamora becomes president and enters power-sharing pact with former dictator Hugo Banzer.

2003 September-October - Socialist leader Evo Morales wins presidential elections, becoming the first indigenous Bolivian to fill the post.

2006 - Bolivia completes its gas nationalisation programme, giving the state control over the operations of foreign energy firms.

2009 - New constitution giving greater rights to indigenous majority is approved in a national referendum.

2019 - Constitutional crisis follows the resignation of President Evo Morales after a disputed election.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionA village in the Amazon, a region which residents are trying to protect from outside intrusion

Related Topics

  • Evo Morales
  • Bolivia