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Country Reports

Bolivia Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

General elections are scheduled for 20 October 2019. The constitutional court has ruled that President Evo Morales can compete again, despite a majority voting against his re-election in a 2016 referendum. An opinion poll published in early September showed Morales with 36% of voter intention followed by Carlos Mesa of the Citizen Community Coalition (Comunidad Ciudadana: CC) with 25%. In Bolivian presidential elections, candidates have to secure either 50% of votes, or 40% plus a 10-percentage-point margin over their closest rival, to avoid going to a second round. The government's current policy agenda revolves around the fulfilment of its 2025 development plan. This aims to add value to primary resource extraction activities by expanding smelting, petrochemical, and lithium battery facilities. Morales' government is also likely to continue expanding foreign investment in these activities if he wins the election; while Carlos Mesa would seek to reduce government corruption and also focus on value-adding industries such as manufacturing, tourism, agroindustry, and boosting exports.Disruptive protests by social groups and unions are highly likely after the election, regardless of the result, consisting of large demonstrations in major cities and roadblocks on main highways into La Paz, El Alto, and Santa Cruz in particular. These are likely to continue sporadically for several weeks, and longer if Morales wins by a small margin. Economic growth is expected to slow to 4.1% of GDP in 2019 and then further to 3.7% in 2020, according to IHS Markit forecasts. Declining oil production and weaker oil prices will depress growth, while expansionary fiscal policy will continue to support growth. The high level of public investment expected in the run-up to the election combined with large current account and fiscal deficits have resulted in rapid declines in foreign reserves, threatening Bolivia’s US dollar-pegged exchange rate.
Last update: September 20, 2019

Operational Outlook

Disruptive strikes are likely to occur ahead of – and also in the weeks following - 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 multisector 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) remain at 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 it denying wrongdoing.

Last update: August 8, 2019

Terrorism

Elevated

Terrorism is not a major threat in Bolivia. Anarchists engage in occasional small-scale actions against banks or government buildings. Coca 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 operating across the Chilean border 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 killed eight people were attributed to a personal feud rather than terrorism.

Last update: August 9, 2019

Crime

Bolivia is an important producer and transit country for Peruvian cocaine. Although it has mainly avoided the large-scale violence that the drugs trade has brought to other countries in the region, violent effects of the trade are likely to increase in the 12-month outlook, particularly in the eastern department of Santa Cruz. The March 2019 arrests of high-ranking police officials on suspicion of links to drugs trade suggests police corruption continues at the highest levels. A shoot-down law allowing the downing of planes suspected of drug trafficking appears to have had little tangible effect.

Last update: August 13, 2019

War Risks

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 19th century war, although President Evo Morales has said he will continue to pursue this objective. A secessionist movement in the eastern department of Santa Cruz that erupted in 2008 has 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.

Last update: August 9, 2019

Social Stability

High

President Evo Morales’s decision to run for re-election in October 2019, despite losing a referendum on this issue in 2016, will drive periodic anti- and pro-government protests until, and in the weeks following, the poll. Roadblocks during protests are common, posing road-cargo delay risks. Solidarity protests by unions and civic groups are also frequent, amplifying the effect of single-issue protests. Violence between protesters and state security forces is frequent and some groups, including coca growers and co-operative miners, use firearms and explosives during protests.

Last update: August 9, 2019

Health Risk

Severe

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.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

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.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Elevated

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.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

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.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +591
Police: 110
Fire Dept.: 119
Ambulance: 118

Electricity

Voltage: 220/230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019