Bolivia Country Report
President Evo Morales's government is likely to face rising protests, civic strikes and labour strikes throughout 2018 as a result of his intention to compete in the 2019 presidential election. A two-term limit, overturned by the constitutional court in November 2017, had previously preventing him from running.
The government currently enjoys strong majorities in both houses of the legislature and is able to pass legislation without difficulty. However, the economy is slowing and is expected to stay at 3.8% GDP growth in 2018 as a result of lower mineral and gas prices. Bolivia is a major cocaine producer and transit country, but drug-related violence is much lower than in Colombia and is concentrated in the southeast of the country around Santa Cruz and the Brazilian border.
Disruptive strikes will remain common throughout 2018, affecting both the public and private sectors including mining and cargo transport. Civic strikes opposing the government are likely to generate further multi-sector work stoppages. Corruption is commonplace among state officials, the judiciary and also the private sector. Contracts signed with state oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) are at particular risk of cancellation as a result of investigations in corruption and contractual irregularities. Italian firm Drillmec's equipment contract with YPFB was cancelled in April 2017 as a result of corruption allegations.
The terrorist threat in Bolivia is limited to occasional small-scale actions by suspected anarchists. These typically involve the use of small improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against banks or government buildings. No such incidents were recorded throughout 2017. In July 2014, the central bank in La Paz was evacuated following an IED threat. Similar actions were recorded in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba departments that year. The risk of secessionist-related terrorist action originating from eastern Bolivia has subsided as the secessionist movement wanes. Drug traffickers at times target state security forces involved in crop eradication and interdiction activities but lack the intention to conduct terrorist attacks.
The risk of civil or interstate war is low. A dispute between Bolivia and Chile over access to the Pacific Ocean is likely to be resolved by diplomatic and legal means rather than militarily. Bolivia's maritime access claim is currently being considered by the International Court of Justice at The Hague. A secessionist movement in the eastern department of Santa Cruz that erupted in 2008 has weakened and is unlikely to return in 2018. The use of force by the military is likely to remain limited to anti-narcotics operations and the pursuit of serious criminals, particularly around the Brazilian border and Santa Cruz.
There is a high risk of social unrest in Bolivia from multiple sectors. Marches and roadblocks are deployed frequently by protesters to pressure the government, increasing disruption risks, particularly to road cargo. Solidarity protests are also frequent, amplifying the effect of single-issue protests. Furthermore, protests over environmental issues often overlap significantly with labour disputes, which can then escalate into disruptive forms of protest, including site occupations. The risk of violence during demonstrations was underlined in August 2016 when Bolivia's deputy interior minister and his bodyguard were beaten to death by a group protesting against increased regulation of mining co-operatives.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission and over one year of age.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Yellow Fever: A vaccine is available for children over the age of one year.
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
Malaria: recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin) if travelling to the Amazon region; chloroquine (sometimes marketed as Nivaquine) for the rest of the country.
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
Flooding is common in Bolivia, particularly during the rainy season (October/November to March/April), and can result in significant transportation disruptions, structural damage, and loss of life.
Several strong earthquakes have occurred in Bolivia, though they rarely cause significant property damage or casualties.
The old highway linking La Paz and Los Yungas has been designated as one of the most dangerous in the world. This old route is still open to the public but travelers are advised to use the new one when driving to Coroico. Though most bus companies utilize the new road, it is worth checking with drivers beforehand what route they plan to take.
Generally speaking, road accident mortality rates are high throughout Bolivia (19.2 deaths per year per 100,000 inhabitants). Traveling in rural areas during the rainy season (October/November to March/April) can be particularly tricky as roads in the western part of the country, already in poor condition, frequently become impassable due to landslides.
In cities, it is advisable to only take marked radio taxis (see CRIME section). Taxis and other businesses are often reluctant to give even small amounts of change, so travelers should carry small bills and give exact change when possible.
Bolivia's climate is tropical. The dry season lasts from May until October with relatively cool temperatures in June and July. The rainy season, characterized by stifling heat and humidity, begins in November and lasts until March.
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