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Volume 55 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: BOLIVIA


EDUARDO GAMARRA, Associate Professor of Political Science, and Acting Director, Latin American and Caribbean Center, Florida International University, University Park Campus, Miami


SINCE THE TRANSITION to democracy in the early 1980s, a boom in publications has occurred in Bolivia. Most noteworthy are the numerous essays, articles, and books on democratization written by Bolivian social scientists who have conducted systematic research on the major political trends of the past decade. René Antonio Mayorga (items bi 94004536, bi 93018224 and bi 94006203), Roberto Laserna (items bi 94004538, bi 93018247, bi 93004930, and bi 94006390), and Fernando Calderón (item bi 91012012) are undoubtedly the best of the crop. Their essays provide insightful, theoretical, and practical interpretations of the unfolding democratization process and the challenges that lie ahead. Foreign scholars have paid less attention to Bolivia and some provide superficial analyses that contribute little beyond the work of the aforementioned Bolivian analysts. One notable exception continues to be the work produced by James M. Malloy on the problems of democratic governance (item bi 92015889). Malloy's work on Bolivia spans three decades and his knowledge and analysis sets a standard other analysts have had difficulty matching.

Within the democratization literature, one of the most significant bodies of work engages the issue of institutional reform and administrative decentralization. As one of the most pressing issues affecting democratizing Bolivia, authors have devoted a great deal of their efforts to the study of this topic. Again, the works of Laserna (items bi 94004538, bi 93018247, bi 93004930, and bi 94006390) and Calderón (item bi 91012012) are worthy of note. Authors studying democratization have focused much of their attention on political parties and elections. Since 1985 Bolivia has held three national and five municipal electoral rounds; as a result, ample material has been generated concerning those processes. On national elections, the most representative work can be found in Roberto Laserna's piece on the 1989 elections (item bi 93004930). Works on municipal elections are incipient, and journal articles represented in this HLAS volume are mainly descriptive.

Another major trend in Bolivian publications has to do with the cultivation of coca leaves and narcotics trafficking. This issue has become the single most important topic affecting that nation's international relations (see also p. Vacs section). Numerous articles and books in both Spanish and English have appeared in recent years; the most outstanding authors are Jorge Malamud Gotti and Raúl Barrios Morón (items bi 96000217 and bi 96000218). The bulk of the literature produced on Bolivia's drug industry, however, remains largely superficial and anecdotal, and provides few insights about the coca and cocaine industry. Most resort to the usual litany of complaints about current drug policy and few provide any alternatives.

This Handbook chapter also includes a set of pamphlets and other political-party documents. Bolivian parties have always produced a fascinating array of documents ranging from the speeches of their leaders to party platforms and histories. These documents are especially useful for specialists on elections, political parties and democracy in general. Other annotations concern transcripts of labor union congresses that provide a written record of the activities of Bolivian organized labor in the last decade.


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