The Bolivian crisis in comparative perspective

Willem Assies, May 2009


  • state transformation
  • constitution
  • citizenship
  • Bolivia
  • Ecuador

Since the year 2000 Bolivia has lived a period of political turmoil, starting with the “Water War” in the city of Cochabamba and other protests throughout the country. In October 2003 massive protests against the plans to export natural gas to the US by way of Chile led to the downfall of President Sánchez de Lozada and in June 2005 his successor resigned. Elections in December that year resulted in a landslide victory of Evo Morales and his Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS). This process, among other things, opened the way to the drafting of a new Constitution, which was finally approved in a popular referendum in January 2009. The new Constitution suggests a clear break with the hitherto prevalent neoliberal model and, like the new (2007) Constitution of Ecuador, takes the concept of “living well” as a central guideline. Furthermore, it provides for various forms of autonomy, a most controversial theme in the country. The Bolivian process is suggestive of the transformation of the state and of citizenship regimes in the context of the “Left Turn” in Latin America.