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Bolivia Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Bolivia Map

Introduction

Background

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 coups and countercoups, with the last coup occurring in 1978. 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. In December 2009 and October 2014, President MORALES easily won reelection. His party maintained control of the legislative branch of the government, which has allowed him to continue his process of change. In February 2016, MORALES narrowly lost a referendum to approve a constitutional amendment that would have allowed him to compete in the 2019 presidential election. However, a 2017 Supreme Court ruling stating that term limits violate human rights provided the justification for MORALES to be chosen by his party to run again in 2019. MORALES attempted to claim victory in the 20 October 2019 election, but widespread allegations of electoral fraud, rising violence, and pressure from the military ultimately forced him to flee the country. An interim government, led by President Jeanine ANEZ Chavez, prepared new elections that took place on 18 October 2020.

Geography

Location

Central South America, southwest of Brazil

Geographic coordinates

17 00 S, 65 00 W

Map references

South America

Area

total: 1,098,581 sq km

land:1,083,301 sq km

water:15,280 sq km

country comparison to the world: 29

Area - comparative

slightly less than three times the size of Montana

Land boundaries

total: 7,252 km

border countries (5):Argentina 942 km, Brazil 3403 km, Chile 942 km, Paraguay 753 km, Peru 1212 km

Coastline

0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)

Climate

varies with altitude; humid and tropical to cold and semiarid

Terrain

rugged Andes Mountains with a highland plateau (Altiplano), hills, lowland plains of the Amazon Basin

Elevation

highest point: Nevado Sajama 6,542 m

lowest point:Rio Paraguay 90 m

mean elevation:1,192 m

Natural resources

tin, natural gas, petroleum, zinc, tungsten, antimony, silver, iron, lead, gold, timber, hydropower

Land use

agricultural land: 34.3% (2018 est.)

arable land: 3.6% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 30.5% (2018 est.)

forest:52.5% (2018 est.)

other:13.2% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

3,000 sq km (2012)

Total renewable water resources

574 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Population distribution

a high altitude plain in the west between two cordillera of the Andes, known as the Altiplano, is the focal area for most of the population; a dense settlement pattern is also found in and around the city of Santa Cruz, located on the eastern side of the Andes

Natural hazards

flooding in the northeast (March to April)

volcanism: volcanic activity in Andes Mountains on the border with Chile; historically active volcanoes in this region are Irruputuncu (5,163 m), which last erupted in 1995, and the Olca-Paruma volcanic complex (5,762 m to 5,167 m)

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands,

signed, but not ratified:Environmental Modification, Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note

note 1: landlocked; shares control of Lago Titicaca, world's highest navigable lake (elevation 3,805 m), with Peru

note 2: the southern regions of Peru and the extreme northwestern part of Bolivia are considered to be the place of origin for the common potato, while southeast Bolivia and northwest Argentina seem to be the original development site for peanuts

People and Society

Population

11,758,869 (July 2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 81

Nationality

noun: Bolivian(s)

adjective:Bolivian

Ethnic groups

Mestizo (mixed White and Amerindian ancestry) 68%, Indigenous 20%, White 5%, Cholo/Chola 2%, Black 1%, other 1%, unspecified 3%; 44% of respondents indicated feeling part of some indigenous group, predominantly Quechua or Aymara (2009 est.)

note: results among surveys vary based on the wording of the ethnicity question and the available response choices; the 2001 national census did not provide "Mestizo" as a response choice, resulting in a much higher proportion of respondents identifying themselves as belonging to one of the available indigenous ethnicity choices; the use of "Mestizo" and "Cholo" varies among response choices in surveys, with surveys using the terms interchangeably, providing one or the other as a response choice, or providing the two as separate response choices

Languages

Spanish (official) 60.7%, Quechua (official) 21.2%, Aymara (official) 14.6%, Guarani (official) 0.6%, other native languages 0.4%, foreign languages 2.4%, none 0.1% (2001 est.)

note: Bolivia's 2009 constitution designates Spanish and all indigenous languages as official; 36 indigenous languages are specified, including a few that are extinct

Religions

Roman Catholic 76.8%, Evangelical and Pentecostal 8.1%, Protestant 7.9%, other 1.7%, none 5.5% (2012 est.)

Demographic profile

Bolivia ranks at or near the bottom among Latin American countries in several areas of health and development, including poverty, education, fertility, malnutrition, mortality, and life expectancy. On the positive side, more children are being vaccinated and more pregnant women are getting prenatal care and having skilled health practitioners attend their births.

Bolivia’s income inequality is the highest in Latin America and one of the highest in the world. Public education is of poor quality, and educational opportunities are among the most unevenly distributed in Latin America, with girls and indigenous and rural children less likely to be literate or to complete primary school. The lack of access to education and family planning services helps to sustain Bolivia’s high fertility rate—approximately three children per woman. Bolivia’s lack of clean water and basic sanitation, especially in rural areas, contributes to health problems.

Between 7% and 16% of Bolivia’s population lives abroad (estimates vary in part because of illegal migration). Emigrants primarily seek jobs and better wages in Argentina (the principal destination), the US, and Spain. In recent years, more restrictive immigration policies in Europe and the US have increased the flow of Bolivian emigrants to neighboring countries. Fewer Bolivians migrated to Brazil in 2015 and 2016 because of its recession; increasing numbers have been going to Chile, mainly to work as miners.

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Plurinational State of Bolivia

conventional short form:Bolivia

local long form:Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia

local short form:Bolivia

etymology:the country is named after Simon BOLIVAR, a 19th-century leader in the South American wars for independence

Government type

presidential republic

Capital

name: La Paz (administrative capital); Sucre (constitutional [legislative and judicial] capital)

geographic coordinates:16 30 S, 68 09 W

time difference:UTC-4 (1 hour ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: La Paz is a shortening of the original name of the city, Nuestra Senora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace); Sucre is named after Antonio Jose de Sucre (1795-1830), military hero in the independence struggle from Spain and the second president of Bolivia

note:
 at approximately 3,630 m above sea level, La Paz's elevation makes it the highest capital city in the world

Administrative divisions

9 departments (departamentos, singular - departamento); Beni, Chuquisaca, Cochabamba, La Paz, Oruro, Pando, Potosi, Santa Cruz, Tarija

Independence

6 August 1825 (from Spain)

National holiday

Independence Day, 6 August (1825)

Constitution

history: many previous; latest drafted 6 August 2006 to 9 December 2008, approved by referendum 25 January 2009, effective 7 February 2009

amendments:proposed through public petition by at least 20% of voters or by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly; passage requires approval by at least two-thirds majority vote of the total membership of the Assembly and approval in a referendum; amended 2013

Legal system

civil law system with influences from Roman, Spanish, canon (religious), French, and indigenous law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: yes

citizenship by descent only:yes

dual citizenship recognized:yes

residency requirement for naturalization:3 years

Suffrage

18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch

chief of state: President Luis Alberto ARCE Catacora (since 8 November 2020); Vice President David CHOQUEHUANCA Cespedes (since 8 November 2020); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government

note: former President Juan Evo MORALES Ayma resigned from office on 10 November 2019 over alleged election rigging; resignations of all his constitutionally designated successors followed, including the Vice President, President of the Senate, President of the Chamber of Deputies, and First Vice President of the Senate, leaving the Second Vice President of the Senate, Jeanine ANEZ Chavez, the highest-ranking official still in office; her appointment to the presidency was endorsed by Bolivia's Constitutional Court, and she served as interim president until the inauguration of Luis Alberto ARCE Catacora, winner of the 18 October 2020 presidential election

head of government:President Luis Alberto ARCE Catacora (since 8 November 2020); Vice President David CHOQUEHUANCA Cespedes (since 8 November 2020)

cabinet:Cabinet appointed by the president

elections/appointments:president and vice president directly elected on the same ballot one of 3 ways: candidate wins at least 50% of the vote, or at least 40% of the vote and 10% more than the next highest candidate; otherwise a second round is held and the winner determined by simple majority vote; president and vice president are elected by majority vote to serve a 5-year term; no term limits (changed from two consecutive term limit by Constitutional Court in late 2017); election last held on 18 October 2020

election results:
Luis Alberto ARCE Catacora elected president; percent of vote - Luis Alberto ARCE Catacora (MAS) 55.1%; Carlos Diego MESA Gisbert (CC) 28.8%; Luis Fernando CAMACHO Vaca (Creemos) 14%; other 2.1%

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Plurinational Legislative Assembly or Asamblea Legislativa Plurinacional consists of:
Chamber of Senators or Camara de Senadores (36 seats; members directly elected in multi-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote; members serve 5-year terms)
Chamber of Deputies or Camara de Diputados (130 seats; 70 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote, 53 directly elected in single-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote, and 7 - apportioned to non-contiguous, rural areas in 7 of the 9 states - directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote; members serve 5-year terms)

elections:
Chamber of Senators - last held on 18 October 2020 (next to be held in 2025)
Chamber of Deputies - last held on 18 October 2020 (next to be held in 2025)

election results:
Chamber of Senators - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - MAS 21, ACC 11, Creemos 4; 
Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - MAS 75, ACC 39, Creemos 16

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court or Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (consists of 12 judges or ministros organized into civil, penal, social, and administrative chambers); Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal (consists of 7 primary and 7 alternate magistrates); Plurinational Electoral Organ (consists of 7 members and 6 alternates); National Agro-Environment Court (consists of 5 primary and 5 alternate judges; Council of the Judiciary (consists of 3 primary and 3 alternate judges)

judge selection and term of office:Supreme Court, Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal, National Agro-Environmental Court, and Council of the Judiciary candidates pre-selected by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly and elected by direct popular vote; judges elected for 6-year terms; Plurinational Electoral Organ judges appointed - 6 by the Legislative Assembly and 1 by the president of the republic; members serve single 6-year terms

subordinate courts:National Electoral Court; District Courts (in each of the 9 administrative departments); agro-environmental lower courts

Political parties and leaders

Christian Democratic Party or PDC [Jorge Fernando QUIROGA Ramirez]
Community Citizen Alliance or ACC [Carlos Diego MESA Gisbert]
Movement Toward Socialism or MAS [Juan Evo MORALES Ayma]
National Unity or UN [Samuel DORIA MEDINA Arana]
Social Democrat Movement or MDS [Ruben COSTAS Aguilera]
We Believe or Creemos [Luis Fernando CAMACHO Vaca]

note: the Democrat Unity Coalition or UD [Samuel DORIA MEDINA Arana] was a coalition comprised of several of the largest opposition parties participating in the 2014 election, which included the Democrats (MDS), National Unity Front (UN), and Without Fear Movement

International organization participation

CAN, CD, CELAC, FAO, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur (associate), MIGA, MINUSTAH, MONUSCO, NAM, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNAMID, UNASUR, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, Union Latina, UNMIL, UNMISS, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Walter Oscar SERRATE CUELLAR (since 2 December 2019)

chancery:3014 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone:[1] (202) 483-4410

FAX:[1] (202) 328-3712

consulate(s) general:Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Washington, DC

note: in September 2008, the US expelled the Bolivian ambassador to the US in reciprocity for Bolivia expelling the US ambassador to Bolivia; in November 2019, the interim Bolivian Government names Oscar SERRATE Cuellar as its temporary special representative to the US

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Bruce WILLIAMSON (since December 2017)

telephone:[591] (2) 216-8000

embassy:Avenida Arce 2780, Casilla 425, La Paz

mailing address:3220 La Paz Place, Dulles, VA, 20189-3220

FAX:[591] (2) 216-8111

note: in September 2008, the Bolivian Government expelled the US Ambassador to Bolivia, Philip GOLDBERG, and both countries have yet to reinstate their ambassadors

Flag description

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

National symbol(s)

llama, Andean condor, two national flowers: the cantuta and the patuju; national colors: red, yellow, green

National anthem

name: "Cancion Patriotica" (Patriotic Song)

lyrics/music:Jose Ignacio de SANJINES/Leopoldo Benedetto VINCENTI

note: adopted 1852

Economy

Economic overview

Bolivia is a resource rich country with strong growth attributed to captive markets for natural gas exports – to Brazil and Argentina. However, the country remains one of the least developed countries in Latin America because of state-oriented policies that deter investment.

Following an economic crisis during the early 1980s, reforms in the 1990s spurred private investment, stimulated economic growth, and cut poverty rates. 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 2005-06, the government passed hydrocarbon laws 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; the laws engendered much public debate. High commodity prices between 2010 and 2014 sustained rapid growth and large trade surpluses with GDP growing 6.8% in 2013 and 5.4% in 2014. The global decline in oil prices that began in late 2014 exerted downward pressure on the price Bolivia receives for exported gas and resulted in lower GDP growth rates - 4.9% in 2015 and 4.3% in 2016 - and losses in government revenue as well as fiscal and trade deficits.

A lack of foreign investment in the key sectors of mining and hydrocarbons, along with conflict among social groups, pose challenges for the Bolivian economy. In 2015, President Evo MORALES expanded efforts to court international investment and boost Bolivia’s energy production capacity. MORALES passed an investment law and promised not to nationalize additional industries in an effort to improve the investment climate. In early 2016, the Government of Bolivia approved the 2016-2020 National Economic and Social Development Plan aimed at maintaining growth of 5% and reducing poverty.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 719,399

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:6.27 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 83

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 11,567,760

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:100.82 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 79

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: lowest GDP in the area; much of the population live in remote valleys and telecommunications is poor; consumers pick from multiple long-distance carriers for each call; reliability, and coverage have steadily improved, but some remote areas are still underserved; operators plan to extend fiber to all 339 municipal capital cities by 2022; move from 3G to LTE available by all 3 mobile companies; 92% of all Internet is through smartphone; broadband services remain expensive by the lack of competition and that fact that Bolivia is landlocked and does not have access through submarine cables; MNP (mobile number portability) launched in October 2018; Bolivian Space Agency planning to launch a second telecom satellite after 2020 (2020)

domestic:6 per 100 fixed-line, mobile-cellular telephone use expanding rapidly and teledensity stands at 101 per 100 persons; most telephones are concentrated in La Paz, Santa Cruz, and other capital cities (2019)

international:country code - 591; Bolivia has no direct access to submarine cable networks and must therefore connect to the rest of the world either via satellite or through terrestrial links across neighboring countries; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

large number of radio and TV stations broadcasting with private media outlets dominating; state-owned and private radio and TV stations generally operating freely, although both pro-government and anti-government groups have attacked media outlets in response to their reporting

Internet country code

.bo

Internet users

total: 4,955,569

percent of population:43.83% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 83

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 504,097

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants:4 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 85

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 7 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers:39

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers:4,122,113 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers:13.73 million mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

CP

Airports

total: 855 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 7

Airports - with paved runways

total: 21 (2017)

over 3,047 m:5 (2017)

2,438 to 3,047 m:4 (2017)

1,524 to 2,437 m:6 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m:6 (2017)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 834 (2013)

over 3,047 m:1 (2013)

2,438 to 3,047 m:4 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m:47 (2013)

914 to 1,523 m:151 (2013)

under 914 m:631 (2013)

Pipelines

5457 km gas, 51 km liquid petroleum gas, 2511 km oil, 1627 km refined products (2013)

Railways

total: 3,960 km (2019)

narrow gauge:3,960 km 1.000-m gauge (2014)

country comparison to the world: 51

Roadways

total: 90,568 km (2017)

paved:9,792 km (2017)

unpaved:80,776 km (2017)

country comparison to the world: 54

Waterways

10,000 km (commercially navigable almost exclusively in the northern and eastern parts of the country) (2012)

country comparison to the world: 13

Merchant marine

total: 42

by type:general cargo 27, oil tanker 1, other 14 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 122

Ports and terminals

river port(s): Puerto Aguirre (Paraguay/Parana)

note: Bolivia has free port privileges in maritime ports in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Bolivian Armed Forces: Bolivian Army (Ejercito de Boliviano, EB), Bolivian Naval Force (Fuerza Naval Boliviana, FNB, includes Marines), Bolivian Air Force (Fuerza Aerea Boliviana, FAB); Ministry of Interior: National Police (Policía Nacional de Bolivia, PNB; includes Anti-Narcotics Special Forces (Fuerza Especial de Lucha Contra el Narcotráfico, FELCN) and other paramilitary units (2021)

Military expenditures

1.4% of GDP (2019)

1.5% of GDP (2018)

1.5% of GDP (2017)

1.6% of GDP (2016)

1.6% of GDP (2015)

country comparison to the world: 96

Military and security service personnel strengths

size assessments for the Bolivian Armed Forces vary; approximately 40,000 active troops, including conscripts (27,000 Army; 5,000 Navy; 8,000 Air Force); note - a considerable portion of the Navy personnel are marines and naval police (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the Bolivian Armed Forces are equipped with a mix of mostly older Brazilian, Chinese, European, and US equipment; since 2010, China and France are the leading suppliers of military hardware to Bolivia (2020)

Military service age and obligation

compulsory for all men between the ages of 18 and 22; men can volunteer from the age of 16, women from 18; service is for one year; Search and Rescue service can be substituted for citizens who have reached the age of compulsory military service; duration of this service is 2 years (2019)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

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 products; contraband smuggling, human trafficking, and illegal narcotic trafficking are problems in the porous areas of its border regions with all of its neighbors (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru)

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Bolivia is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking domestically and abroad; rural and poor Bolivians, most of whom are indigenous, and LGBT youth are particularly vulnerable; Bolivians perform forced labor domestically in mining, ranching, agriculture, and domestic service, and a significant number are in forced labor abroad in sweatshops, agriculture, domestic service, and the informal sector; women and girls are sex trafficked within Bolivia and in neighboring countries, such as Argentina, Peru, and Chile; a limited number of women from nearby countries are sex trafficked in Bolivia

tier rating:Tier 2 Watch List – Bolivia does not comply fully with the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts, and poor data collection made it difficult to assess the number of investigations, prosecutions, and victim identifications and referrals to care services; authorities did not adequately differentiate between human trafficking and other crimes, such as domestic violence and child abuse; law enforcement failed to implement an early detection protocol for identifying trafficking cases and lacked a formal process for identifying trafficking victims among vulnerable populations; specialized victim services were inadequately funded and virtually non-existent for adult women and male victims (2015)

Illicit drugs

world's third-largest cultivator of coca (after Colombia and Peru) with an estimated 37,500 hectares under cultivation in 2016, a 3 percent increase over 2015; third largest producer of cocaine, estimated at 275 metric tons potential pure cocaine in 2016; 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

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