The Bolivian Revolution

        I.            Bolivia on the eve of revolution

A.      Economy based mostly on tin mining

B.      Mines and most land owned by a small local elite and foreigners

C.      A turbulent history of lost wars and many short-lived military governments

      II.            Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionaria (MNR)

A.      Forms in 1941, made up of middle class and elite radicals seeking significant changes

B.      Led mainly by Victor Paz Estenssoro and Hernan Siles Suazo

C.      Strongly nationalist, gained a reputation for fascist tendencies

D.      1952 revolt

1.  Government transparently steals 1951 election MNR was poised to win

2. MNR arms it supporters and launches a quick uprising in 1952, seizes power

    III.            The MNR in power (1952-1964)

A.      Paz serves as first president (1952-1956)

B.      Supported primarily by middle class and radical tin miners’ unions

C.      Nationalized tin mines under government owner company, COMIBOL, with support of miners’ unions

D.      Land reforms

1. Government forced into aggressive land reform as peasants revolt, inspired by MNR uprising

2. Peasants get control of much of the land, become unionized

a.      Concerned mainly about basic local services and holding on to land titles

b.      Farms remain small, fragmented

c.       Peasants do not get support they need to modernize their farms

E.       Army virtually disbanded and rebuilt

F.       U.S. gives Paz more leeway than Arbenz

1.  Reassured by Paz’s vocal anti-Soviet rhetoric (and reputation for fascist, and thus anti-Communist, tendencies)

2. U.S. comes to see revolution as nationalist, but not Communist

3. U.S. had little investment in Bolivia, and government compensated mine and land owners

4. Paz becomes increasingly dependent on U.S. aid

5. Army rebuilt with U.S. help, and becomes pro-U.S.

G.     Siles Suazo presidency (1956-1960)

1.  Pulls away from any radical social programs

2.  Continues to depend on U.S. and foreign aid

H.      Paz returns to presidency (1960-1964)

1. MNR fragments between radical and conservative factions

2. Leftist guerrilla movements begin to become active

3. Military overthrows Paz in 1964 – with peasant support, crushes the miners

    IV.            Aftermath

A.      MNR’s pullback from radicalism stunted real social transformation, though strong state role in economy remained into 1980s

B.      Long string of coups and countercoups, short-lived fragile governments in post-MNR years

C.      Cocaine growers and traffickers increasingly influential as tine mines become depleted

D.      Paz and Siles Suazo both rerun to presidency in 1980s, but neo-liberal polices fail to promote growth, jobs

E.       Evo Morales, leader of the cocaine growers union, elected president in 2006. First Amerindian president of Bolivia