Past eventResearch Event

Crisis and Change in Bolivia: the Morales Government in Historical Perspective

16 June 2006 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm

Chatham House, London


Speaker: Professor James Dunkerley, Director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London

Chair: Dr Rachel Sieder, Chatham House Associate Fellow



Bolivia's new government made headlines in Europe in May of this year when, on reaching 100 days in office, President Evo Morales announced measures to 'nationalise' gas resources and renegotiate fiscal terms for foreign companies involved in the country's energy sector.

Bolivia is no stranger to political upheaval and short-lived governments: after the 2000 'water wars', large-scale peasant and indigenous street protests were instrumental in the fall of two administrations within 18 months. This political fluidity may have to do with the failure of successive governments to raise Bolivia from its bottom place in regional poverty leagues and to take sufficient account of the country's often-excluded indigenous majority.

Does Morales's political support base, the 'Movement Towards Socialism' offer a viable alternative path for political and social development? How will it handle internal regional tensions over the resource-rich Santa Cruz district? What will happen to coca eradication policy and the relationship with the US? How will Bolivia choose to position itself in a regional political landscape which ranges from moderate centre-left governments like Brazil's to more flamboyant and discursively radical administrations like Chavez's in Venezuela?

Renowned regional expert Prof. James Dunkerley will help us to understand the political and historical context of current political developments in Bolivia.