The Bolivian State

The Bolivian State

On July 10, 1825, in Chuquisaca, in the ancient seat of the Audiencia de Charcas, the general assembly of independent Upper Peru was inaugurated: forty-eight representatives, the majority of whom were doctors from the Colonial University. The proposals for annexation to the territory of the Argentine or the Peruvian Republic were discussed and rejected on 6 August, the Assembly proclaimed independence on the same day; and on the 13th he sanctioned the form of government of the new state constituted in a unitary republic, with a representative system, and with the separation of the three powers: legislative, executive and judicial. By law of the 14th of the same month, the republic was given the glorious name of the liberator Simone Bolívar, then changed to Bolivia, and arrangements were made for Bolívar himself to hold the supreme executive power of the republic as long as he resided within its limits. The same law determined that “the capital of the republic, with its department (Chuquisaca) would be called in the future Sucre “.

The first Bolivian political constitution was discussed in the assembly of 1826, on the project drawn up by Bolívar, and was promulgated by law on November 19. It stipulated the creation of three chambers: that of the censors who were to exercise a mission similar to that of the Athenian Areopagus, appoint the high dignitaries, organize the administration, watch over the fulfillment of the constitution and treaties; that of the senators who drafted the codes and supervised the courts; and that of the tribunes, who had the initiative of the laws, were concerned with peace and war and controlled the executive power.

Since independence, Bolivia has had 26 presidents: 11 of them have been ousted by revolutions and eight have been assassinated. This gives an idea of ​​the turbulent political life. The first president appointed by the assembly was Simone Bolívar, who resigned from the post. Then Sucre was appointed who, due to his extreme youth and lack of political skills, was unable to lead the public life of the brand new republic. Therefore, embittered by the internal strife, he in turn resigned and indicated as suitable candidates to succeed him the generals Andrés Santa Cruz and José Miguel de Velazco.

But due to the infighting and the simultaneous invasion of Bolivia by the Peruvian army, led by President Magarra, the will of the Sucre was not carried out; and the Convention that stipulated the treaty of Piquiza with Petù (6 July 1828), accepting the impositions of Magarra, designated Pedro Blanco as president. After only five days from his exaltation, he was exonerated: he died murdered, in prison, the following January 1st. In order to dominate the uprisings, the assembly then appointed General Andrés Santa Cruz, who dictated a provisional statute, followed by a reform of the Constitution of 1826: the Chamber of Tribunes was suppressed and the other two were called Deputies and Senators (1831). Santa Cruz was also concerned with perfecting the Bolivian legislation, promulgating various codes, of an administrative and private nature, which earned Bolivia the primacy, in general, of all the Spanish-American legislations; he ordered public finances and organized taxes; at the same time he promoted industrial interests and encouraged agriculture with considerable concessions to immigrants; entered into a commercial treaty with Peru. Under his government, which lasted a decade (1829-1839), the prosperity, prestige and power of Bolivia grew so that Santa Cruz could conceive and almost carry out the ambitious plan to subjugate Peru and rebuild (with both states united under his rule) the ancient viceroyalty of Lima. He himself placed himself at the head of the invasion troops who, defeated the Peruvian army in Cuzco (1835), they ousted the president of the Peruvian republic, Magarra. In attempting to carry out his project, the Santa Cruz unified the fundamental laws of the two countries, which nevertheless had to preserve their respective administration and autonomy in internal politics; and he had himself proclaimed (with the nickname of protector) head of this Peruvian-Bolivian confederation (1836). But his attitude provoked the simultaneous uprisings of Magarra in Peru and Velazco in Bolivia; and when, won by Magarra at Jungay (1839), the Santa Cruz returned to Bolivia, Velazco had replaced it, albeit with a provisional character.

The presidency of General José Ballivián, called “el Grande” followed, to whom the victory of Ingavi over the troops of the Peruvian president, who had again invaded the province of La Paz (1841), earned him the supreme power. The campaign against Peru continued under him: defeated and Magarra died in Viacha, peace was signed in 1842 on the basis of the statu quo ante bellum. Ballivián dictated the fourth republican constitution called the Military Ordinance (1843); and under him the economic progress of the country continued: the exploitation of the riverbed of the Pilcomayo river, in the Chaco Boreal was begun, the exploration of the tributaries of the Amazon River was ordered in order to establish a fluvial communications network. Ballivián fell from power due to the revolt led by the ex-president Josè Miguel de Velazco (1848-1849); he too was ousted by the uprising directed by Manuel Isidoro Belzú, who had already formed part of a government triumvirate with Velazco and Olañeta and which remained in power for six years. Six years of continuous struggles: more than fifty rebellions, persecutions and political reprisals en masse, under the auspices of the restored Constitution of 1839, harassment of a kind of bandit communism. Followed by the governments of the son-in-law of Belzú, Jorge Córdova (1855-1857), of the energetic José María de Linares, imitator of Belzú, who was absolute dictator, and of José María de Acha. The government of the latter, although marred by continuous revolutions in the early days (1861-1864), was nevertheless very beneficial to the nation: public services were reorganized, new impetus was given to mining industry and agriculture, reduced to a miserable situation under the predecessors, trade was favored with international treaties; a temporary remedy was also taken (1866) to the ancient quarrel between Bolivia and Chile for the possession of the neighboring district of Mejillones; one of the richest on the coast for its saltpeter deposits and guano deposits. But Acha also fell for a revolution, which imposed the presidency of Mariano Melgarejo; and then (1864-1871) a series of events unfavorable to the nation followed one another. A heavy treaty granted Chilean companies the monopoly on the exploitation of the whole province, then Bolivian, of Antofagasta, with its rich deposits of saltpetre, with its boraciferous fumaroles and with its silver and copper mines.

Things went better under Agustín Morales (1871-72), who promoted the construction of railways, territorially organized the districts of Mamoré and Gran Chaco and the exploitation of the magnificent natural resources of the latter. On his death and after a government of Tomás Frias’s passing, Adolfo Ballivián, son of José, was elected (1873). The same year of his election, Ballivián signs a defensive alliance with Peru, which will be the origin of the conflict with Chile. For Bolivia 2017, please check

The conflict that had been preparing for some time, over the question of the Antofagasta fields, was delayed by the ratification of the privileges granted in 1866 to the Chilean companies of Antofagasta, ratified by the Frias, once again in power, in 1874; but it broke out during the presidency of Hilarión Daza (1876-1879). The latter had come to power following a revolution, and had been confirmed by the congress of La Paz which, too, had promulgated the number ten constitution of the many that were in force in Bolivia (1877). Abusing its quasi-sovereign prerogatives and under pressure from allied Peru, the Daza revoked the Chileno-Bolivian treaties of 1866 and 1874, causing conflict, known as the war of the Pacific (the pretext was offered by the refusal of the Atacama saltpeter companies to accept the new taxes on exploitation). In a few days of war, Chile occupied the province and seized the port of Antofagasta (April 14, 1879). Belatedly, Bolivia, aided by the Peruvian army, rushed to defend the southern coast; the allied armies were defeated so quickly that they were forced to ask Chile for an armistice. This he granted (1880) and retained Antofagasta in his possession, claiming that he did nothing but claim ancient rights, which he had renounced only to find a basis for agreement for the 1866 treaty. The armistice was then ratified in 1884:

Another serious problem arises for the first time in 1879: that of the borders between Bolivia and Paraguay, due to the possession of the Chaco Boreal, a district of 300,000 sq km, of great agricultural wealth. The Chaco Boreal had belonged, in the colonial period, to the Audiencia de Charcas whose complete limits were preserved in the territory of the republic of Bolivia. according to the uti possidetis juris, proclaimed by Simone Bolívar in 1810 to regulate the borders of the then nascent states. The Bolivian thesis was based precisely on this: Bolivia also invoked the need to obtain direct communication with the Atlantic, since it had lost that of the Pacific as a consequence of the war against Chile. But Paraguay alleged that the jurisdiction of the Audiencia de Charcas was merely judicial as regards the Chaco Boreal; this, on the other hand, depended on the bishopric and the Intendency of Paraguay, respectively for ecclesiastical and administrative matters. A first treaty on the Chaco Boreal was signed in 1887; the territory was divided into three parts, one for each of the two states and one, the central one, submitted to the arbitration of the king of Belgium.

Despite similar troubles, the Bolivian nation continued in its progressive development, especially from the presidency of Narciso Campero (1880). Telegraph networks were established; privileges were granted for the exploitation of the Chaco Boreal, credits and rewards for agriculture; the mining industries were favored and protected and commercial communications had an impulse. Campero also promulgated a new political constitution, which is the one still in force today.

Progress accelerates under the presidencies of Aniceto Arce and Mariano Baptista (who followed Campero’s successor, Gregorio Pando, 1884-88), during which many important public works were built, such as the strategic railway from Oruro to the port of Antofagasta, through which almost all of Bolivia’s foreign trade takes place; under that of Severo Fernández Alonso, author of reforms in public education; by General José Manuel Pandoche (1899-1904), the promoter of the first railway communication with Peru. In these first years of the twentieth century, discussions arose regarding the application of the Chileno-Bolivian pact of 1884, the one called peace and friendship was stipulated (20 October 1904), which established the limits in the disputed region; by virtue of it, Bolivia definitively renounced the department of Cobija with all its coastline from Punta Falsa in the south to Antofagasta, in whose port, as well as those of Arica and Mollendo, it nevertheless had the right to establish national customs; and Chile, on the other hand, undertook to continue the construction of the Bolivian part of the railway from Arica to La Paz and guaranteed that of other networks with 5% of the cost. It was a renunciation of any access to the sea; however, it seems not to be considered as definitive by Bolivia, which brought the question before the League of Nations and which refrained from participating in the fifth Pan-American Conference, celebrated in Santiago del Chile in 1923.

In 1903 disputes broke out over the possession of the Acre region on the Brazilian border. Already before, Bolivia had organized the “national delegation of the North-East” in order precisely to prevent any Brazilian usurpation on the border territories: now there was a small war, which, however, was soon ended with an agreement: 70,000 miles of the mining district were ceded to Brazil, in exchange for pecuniary indemnity and other territorial compensation. But this problem also seems to be recurring.

Ismael Montes (1904-09 and 1913-15) and Eliodoro Villazón (1909-1913) stepped up the construction of the railways to encourage the exploitation of national mines, pastoralism and agriculture. Villazón also followed the liberal policy initiated by Montes, establishing, among other things, civil marriage; and reorganized public finances by also establishing the Bank of the Bolivian nation. During the war, Bolivia first proclaimed its neutrality; it was not until April 13, 1917 that it broke off diplomatic relations with Germany.

José Gutierrez Guerra (1917-20) was succeeded by Battista Saavedra, imposed by the revolution of 1920 and appointed by the convention of the following year. Saavedra organized military aviation, built roads and railways of great importance such as the one from Atocha to Villazón (which is the first communication with Argentina), contributed to the revival of certain industries, provided Bolivia with provident laws social. In May 1925 José Galino Villanueva was elected; but the election was canceled in September by Congress, and in December Dr. Hernando Siles was elected. However, following an insurrectionary movement, he too had to leave the presidency in June 1930.

In recent years the dispute with Paraguay has risen over the possession of the Gran Chaco. The question, initially peaceably initiated, with the acceptance of arbitration by a commission, suddenly sharpened towards the end of 1928. In December, armed conflicts broke out on the border; the two states mobilized and for a moment war seemed inevitable. On December 17 and 18, however, first Paraguay and then Bolivia accepted the mediation of the International Conference of American States in Washington.

The Bolivian State

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