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Bolivia Country Information

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 nearly 200 coups and countercoups. Comparatively 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 majority.

Geography
Location: Central South America, southwest of Brazil

Area: total: 1,098,580 sq km
Water: 14,190 sq km
Land: 1,084,390 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly less than three times the size of Montana

Border countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru

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 extremes:
Lowest point: Rio Paraguay 90 m
Highest point: Nevado Sajama 6,542 m

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

People
Population: 8,989,046
Age structure: 0-14 years: 35% (male 1,603,982/female 1,542,319)
15-64 years: 60.4% (male 2,660,806/female 2,771,807)
65 years and over: 4.6% (male 182,412/female 227,720) (2006 est.)
Median age: 21.8 years
Population growth rate: 1.45%
Life expectancy at birth: male: 63.21 years
female: 68.61 years (2006 est.)

Ethnic groups: Quechua 30%, mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry) 30%, Aymara 25%, white 15%
Religions: Roman Catholic 95%, Protestant (Evangelical Methodist) 5%

Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua (official), Aymara (official)
Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write): total population: 87.2%

Government
Country name: Republic of Bolivia
Government type: republic
Capital: La Paz (seat of government); Sucre (legal capital and seat of judiciary)
Independence: 6 August 1825 (from Spain)
Suffrage: 18 years of age, universal and compulsory (married); 21 years of age, universal and compulsory (single)

Executive branch: chief of state: President Juan Evo MORALES Ayma (since 22 January 2006); Vice President Alvaro GARCIA Linera (since 22 January 2006); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
Legislative branch: bicameral National Congress or Congreso Nacional consists of Chamber of Senators or Camara de Senadores (27 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; 69 are directly elected from their districts and 61 are elected by proportional representation from party lists to serve five-year terms)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Corte Suprema (judges appointed for 10-year terms by National Congress); District Courts (one in each department); provincial and local courts (to try minor cases)

Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Jaime APARICIO Otero
consulate(s) general: Houston, Miami, New York, Oklahoma City, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, DC
FAX: [1] (202) 328-3712
telephone: [1] (202) 483-4410

Embassy: Avenida Arce 2780, La Paz
mailing address: P. O. Box 425, La Paz; APO AA 34032
telephone: [591] (2) 216-8000
FAX: [591] (2) 216-8111

Economy
Overview: Bolivia, long one of the poorest and least developed Latin American countries, reformed its economy after suffering a disastrous economic crisis in the early 1980s. The reforms spurred real GDP growth, which averaged 4% in the 1990s, and poverty rates fell. Economic growth, however, lagged again beginning in 1999 because of a global slowdown and homegrown factors such as political turmoil, civil unrest, and soaring fiscal deficits, all of which hurt investor confidence. In 2003, violent protests against the pro-foreign investment economic policies of President SANCHEZ DE LOZADA led to his resignation and the cancellation of plans to export Bolivia's newly discovered natural gas reserves to large northern hemisphere markets. In 2005, the government passed a controversial natural gas law that imposes on the oil and gas firms significantly higher taxes as well as new contracts that give the state control of their operations. Bolivian officials are in the process of implementing the law; meanwhile, foreign investors have stopped investing and have taken the first legal steps to secure their investments. Real GDP growth in 2003-05 - helped by increased demand for natural gas in neighboring Brazil - was positive, but still below the levels seen during the 1990s. Bolivia's fiscal position has improved in recent years, but the country remains dependent on foreign aid from multilateral lenders and foreign governments to meet budget shortfalls. In 2005, the G8 announced a $2 billion debt-forgiveness plan over the next few decades that should help reduce some fiscal pressures on the government in the near term.

Population below poverty line: 64% (2004 est.)
Unemployment rate: 8% in urban areas; widespread underemployment (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products: soybeans, coffee, coca, cotton, corn, sugarcane, rice, potatoes; timber

Industries: mining, smelting, petroleum, food and beverages, tobacco, handicrafts, clothing

Exports - commodities: natural gas, soybeans and soy products, crude petroleum, zinc ore, tin

Currency: boliviano (BOB)

Communications
Telephone system: general assessment: new subscribers face bureaucratic difficulties; most telephones are concentrated in La Paz and other cities; mobile cellular telephone use expanding rapidly
domestic: primary trunk system, which is being expanded, employs digital microwave radio relay; some areas are served by fiber-optic cable; mobile cellular systems are being expanded
international: country code - 591



All information on this page provided by The World Factbook. See http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html.
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