Annual Report: Bolivia 2010

May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Bolivia 2010

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Head of state and government Evo Morales Ayma
Death penalty abolitionist for ordinary crimes
Population 9.9 million
Life expectancy 65.4 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 65/56 per 1,000
Adult literacy 90.7 per cent

A number of initiatives in the area of economic, social and cultural rights resulted in improvements in education and health services and in the recognition of the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and campesinos (peasant farmers). Further weakening of the judicial system undermined fair trial guarantees.


In December, President Evo Morales won a second term in office, gaining a two-thirds majority for his party in the legislature. A new Constitution was approved by voters in January and promulgated in February following more than two years of political negotiation. The Constitution asserts the centrality of Bolivia’s "plurinational" Indigenous majority and contains provisions to advance economic, social and cultural rights.

Political violence diminished, but political polarization continued to affect public life. In April, an elite police unit killed three men suspected of organizing an armed plot against the central government in the city of Santa Cruz, an opposition stronghold. Concerns were subsequently raised about the way in which the investigations were conducted.

Investigations into some 140 cases of reported rapes in Manitoba Mennonite communities were initiated. Young girls were alleged to be among the victims.

Justice system

There were continuing concerns about the independence of the judiciary. Political tensions undermined the ability of key institutions to discuss proposals for reform of the judiciary in a co-ordinated manner.

The last remaining Constitutional Court judge resigned in June, leaving a backlog of over 4,000 cases and no mechanism for oversight of constitutional guarantees

There were concerns that the continuing instability and politicization in the justice system could weaken the application of international fair trial standards. In 2009, many judges and law officers, including several Supreme Court judges, were disqualified and charged with procedural irregularities. Among them was Supreme Court President Eddy Fernández who was suspended in May on the grounds that he had allegedly intentionally delayed the "Black October" case (see below) with intent.

Legal challenges hindered progress in several high-profile cases, leading to allegations of political interference. For example, challenges over jurisdiction slowed progress in the case relating to the outbreak of violence in September 2008 in Pando department which left 19 people, mostly campesinos, dead. Allegations that judges assigned to some cases failed to act with impartiality resulted in further procedural challenges.

Two special commissions established by the Chamber of Deputies in 2008 presented their findings on both the racist violence that occurred in Sucre in May 2008 and the Pando massacre. At the end of the year, a number of local officials and leaders were on trial charged with torture and public order offences in Sucre. The Deputies recommended that over 70 people, including former Pando Prefect Leopoldo Fernández, be charged for their role in the Pando massacre. A trial was expected to start in early 2010.