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 October 2019 presidential election. A two-term limit, overturned by the constitutional court in November 2017, had previously prevented him from running.
The government enjoys strong majorities in both houses of the legislature and is able to pass legislation without difficulty. However, the economy is slowing, with GDP growth rates declining from 4.2% in 2017 to an anticipated 3.6% by 2019. 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 are likely to occur ahead of the October 2019 general election, 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 the private sector. Contracts signed with state oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) are at particular risk of cancellation as a result of ongoing investigations into corruption and contractual irregularities. Italian firm Drillmec's equipment contract with YPFB was cancelled in April 2017 as a result of corruption allegations, despite denying wrongdoing.
Terrorism is not a major threat in Bolivia. Anarchists engage in occasional small-scale actions against banks or government buildings. Cocoa growers, particularly in the Yungas region of La Paz department, and illegal miners, who have ready access to dynamite, occasionally resist government clampdowns, targeting state security forces rather than civilian or commercial assets. A network of smugglers with cross-border operations into Chile have violently confronted the police and the armed forces. Two separate improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in the city of Oruro in February 2018 that collectively killed 12 people were attributed to a personal feud rather than terrorism.
The risk of civil or interstate war is low. In October 2018 The International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled against Bolivia's demand to recover sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean and territory lost in a late XIX century war. A secessionist movement in the eastern department of Santa Cruz that erupted in 2008 has since weakened and is unlikely to be significantly revived. The deployment of military force is likely to remain limited to anti-narcotics operations and the pursuit of serious criminals, particularly around the Brazilian border and Santa Cruz.
Vaccines Required to Enter the Country
Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travelers arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission, as well as for all travelers visiting any "high risk" areas within Bolivia; a list of concerned municipalities is available at the website of the Bolivian Ministry of Health. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease; it should be taken ten days in advance to be fully effective.
Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers
Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).
Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers
Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.
Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).
Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers
Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.
Malaria: There is currently no malaria vaccine. However, various antimalarial prophylactics are available by prescription and can reduce risk of infection by up to 90 percent. Different medications are prescribed depending on the risk level and the strains of the virus present in the destination. Antimalarial tablets need to be taken throughout the trip to be effective and may need to be taken for as long as four weeks following the trip.
Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).
Yellow fever: A yellow fever vaccination certificate is generally recommended for travelers to the regions indicated on this map.
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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