The following information is based on the Amnesty International Report 2020/21. This report documents the human rights situation in 149 countries in 2020, as well as providing global and regional analysis. It presents Amnesty lnternational’s concerns and calls for action to governments and others. During 2020, the world was rocked by COVID-19. The pandemic and measures taken to tackle it impacted everyone, but also threw into stark relief, and sometimes aggravated, existing inequalities and patterns of abuse.

Bolivia Human Rights 2020

The social, economic, political and human rights crisis in Bolivia which began in the aftermath of the 20 October 2019 elections continued in 2020. The crisis was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which reached very worrying dimensions in the country, disproportionately affecting those in vulnerable situations. Those defending human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples, journalists and political opponents, or those perceived as such, continued to be threatened and harassed.


On 13 August 2020, after two postponements due to public health considerations relating to COVID-19, the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, the interim government and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal agreed that a general election should be held on 18 October 2020. On 23 July 2020, after the second postponement was announced, demonstrations, including roadblocks, intensified amid complaints by the authorities and the general population that the blockades were preventing key supplies for dealing with COVID-19 from reaching various communities that needed them. There were also reports of violence by some protesters and between groups of protesters, with interventions by the security forces. Early on 14 August 2020, there were reports of an attack with explosives on the office of the Bolivian Union of Workers (COB) in La Paz. The COB had played a key role in the demonstrations.

Bolivia reported its first cases of COVID-19 in March 2020 and on 12 March 2020 the acting President declared the situation a national emergency. Supreme decrees and subsequent laws established additional quarantine measures and mandatory stay-at-home regulations, among other economic and social measures to deal with the pandemic. As of 31 December 2020, the Ministry of Health had reported 160,124 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,165 deaths related to the virus.

On 18 October 2020, general elections for the President, Vice-President and members of the Legislative Assembly were held. On 8 November 2020, Luis Arce, the Movimiento Al Socialismo party candidate, took office as President.

excessive and unnecessary use of force

In the context of the post-election crisis, human rights violations were perpetrated, including the use of excessive and unnecessary force by the National Police and the Armed Forces to repress demonstrations. At least 35 people died and 833 were injured. These human rights violations were not adequately investigated, tried and punished, resulting in impunity.1


On 23 January 2020 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced an agreement with the interim government of Bolivia for the creation of an Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) to investigate acts of violence and human rights violations committed between 1 September and 31 December 2019. However, the government publicly questioned the independence of two of the four members of the GIEI announced by the IACHR. On 28 April 2020, the IACHR announced that it would include a fifth member “to strengthen the GIEI” and that the Group would be installed soon. On 23 November 2020, the GIEI was installed and on 22 December 2020 it announced that it had concluded the “preliminary stage” of its work, which entailed meetings with groups of victims and witnesses and with civil society organizations.

human rights defenders

In 2020, human rights defenders, such as Waldo Albarracín, continued to be threatened and harassed while criminal investigations into attacks on them remained stalled, and the authorities failed to provide human rights defenders with appropriate protection so that they could carry out their legitimate work.

Freedom of expression

Journalists and social communicators reported that the right to freedom of expression was being unduly restricted in Bolivia by means of threats, attacks and attempts to silence the national and international media in 2020. The interim government created a climate of fear and censorship through its public statements and regulations, and harassed and threatened political opponents and those perceived as such. It issued public threats, accusing political leaders of spreading “misinformation” and journalists of “sedition”. The government also accused people of participating in “destabilization and disinformation movements” and of conducting a “virtual war” against it.

In the context of the pandemic, the government also issued regulations that raised a number of concerns, such as Supreme Decrees 4199, 4200 as well as 4231 which modifies the first two. Some articles of these decrees violated the right to freedom of expression, for example establishing a crime against public health for “spreading wrong information” about COVID-19 or “generating uncertainty in the population”. These decrees were later repealed. Nevertheless, they served to intensify the harassment against political opponents and those perceived as such, as did criminal proceedings and detentions.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

Indigenous Peoples were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Their right to participate in decision-making processes on issues affecting their rights continued to be undermined by the granting of licences for economic projects on community lands without their free, prior and informed consent. According to the Office of the Ombudsperson, in the context of the pandemic, there was a lack of a public health policy to protect Indigenous Peoples and an increase in the use on social media of racist rhetoric that stigmatized them.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people

On 3 July 2020 the Second Constitutional Chamber of La Paz Departmental Court of Justice annulled a decision by the National Civil Registry to deny registration for a same-sex civil union. The Chamber ordered the Civil Registry to issue a new resolution upholding international human rights standards. The order was not complied with and the Civil Registry lodged a request with the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal for a precautionary measure to suspend the effects of the ruling; this remained pending at the end of the year. On 9 December 2020, the Civil Registry complied with the Chamber’s order and issued a new resolution, allowing two men to become the first same-sex couple to register their civil union.



Bolivia Newsroom

February 27, 2020 • Report

Countries cracked down on asylum and the right to protest in the Americas in 2019

As millions took to the streets to protest rampant violence, inequality, corruption and impunity, or were forced to flee their countries in search of safety, states across the Americas clamped …

February 18, 2016 • Report

Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

February 25, 2015 • Report

State of the World 2014/2015

This has been a devastating year for those seeking to stand up for human rights and for those caught up in the suffering of war zones. Governments pay lip service to the importance of protecting civilians. And yet the world's politicians have miserably failed to protect those in greatest need. Amnesty International believes that this can and must finally change.

May 16, 2013 • Report

Annual Report: Bolivia 2013

Head of state and government Evo Morales Ayma Indigenous Peoples’ rights to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent over developments affecting them remained unfulfilled. Victims of human rights …

June 30, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Bolivia 2011

Head of state and government: Evo Morales Ayma Death penalty: abolitionist for ordinary crimes Population: 10 million Life expectancy: 66.3 years Under-5 mortality (m/f): 65/56 per 1,000 Adult literacy: 90.7 …

March 19, 2011 • Report

Annual Report: Bolivia 2010

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 …

September 9, 2019 • Press Release

Bolivian Government Must Suspend Presidential Decree and Investigate Causes of Forest Fires

In an open letter published today, Amnesty International called on the government of President Evo Morales to suspend the July decree that authorized “controlled burns” to extend the agricultural frontier, until it is certain that the decree has not contributed to the forest fires that are causing an environmental and human rights crisis in Chiquitanía, a region close to the Amazon and the Brazilian border.

February 22, 2016 • Press Release

Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms

On the launch of its 2015 State of the World report, Amnesty International USA urged President Obama to use his last year in office to bring U.S. laws and policies in line with international human rights standards.

February 18, 2016 • Press Release

Your rights in jeopardy, global assault on freedoms, warns Amnesty International

International protection of human rights is in danger of unravelling as short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights, warned Amnesty International as it launched its annual assessment of human rights around the world. “Your rights are in jeopardy: they are being treated with utter contempt by many governments around the world,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

August 31, 2011 • Press Release

Amnesty International Applauds Conviction of Former Officials in Bolivia Massacre

The conviction of seven high-ranking former officials in Bolivia for their role in dozens of deaths during anti-government protests in 2003 is an important step for justice, Amnesty International said today.