Bolivia has been undergoing serious changes in recent years, beginning first and foremost in 2005 with the election of Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous president, and continued by his landslide re-election in 2009.
Morales is supported by millions of Bolivians, especially from the working class and previously marginalized indigenous groups of the highlands. Although Bolivia remains South America’s poorest country, many Bolivians are reclaiming their sovereignty, dignity, and access to the most basic of resources - water, heat, shelter, food, and identity - and in the process have built one of the strongest social movements throughout Latin America, if not the world. In 2009, 67% of voters backed a groundbreaking new constitution that granted greater rights to the indigenous majority population, in spite of powerful opposition from wealthy elites.
Though Evo enjoys widespread support among certain segments of society, admiration is not universal; his socialist policies have evoked strong resistance from upper income Bolivians. Relations have also been frosty with the US, as Bolivia has defiantly moved away from capitalist ideologies and forged close ties with Venezuela and other Latin American countries bucking the neoliberal model. In 2006 Morales quickly nationalized the country’s gas reserves, and in 2008 he expelled the DEA and halted US coca eradication programs. Diplomatic relations between the US and Bolivia were cut off in 2008 but restored in 2011; though relations remained strained, they are improving.
Visit with Global Exchange to explore one of the first "water wars" of the 21st century, debunk the corporate-led model of development through privatization of natural resources, and learn from communities who continue to exercise direct democracy for the right to survive.