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Bolivia

Yearbook 2018

Bolivia. After five years of investigations, a ruling came in the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ) on October 1, which meant a severe defeat for Bolivia in the country's quest to gain access to the Pacific Ocean by leaving Chile part of its territory. The conflict between the two countries dates back to the Pacific War 1879–83 when Chile occupied Bolivia's coastal strip, and over the years has been loaded with nationalist sentiments on both sides. The Court's ruling was not about Bolivia's right as such but about Chile's obligation to negotiate the case, which the Court rejected. According to Countryaah.com, Chile's president Sebastián Piñera saw the outcome as a victory but at the same time declared himself willing to talk, while Bolivia's president Evo Morales insisted on moving on.

2018 Bolivia

The biggest defeat for Morales, who put much of his personal prestige into the matter, was on the domestic political plane and related to his plans to be re-elected in 2019. Opinion polls showed a declining support for him and his party MAS (the Movement for Socialism). In September, only 29% of those surveyed said they would vote for him, which is comparable to the 61% of the votes he got in the 2016 election.

At the end of August, the government-controlled Congress approved a new electoral law stipulating that all parties must elect their president and vice presidential candidates through primary elections and that the funding of party activities should be made more transparent. The opposition, with former president Carlos Mesa (2003–05) at the forefront, argued that the law was an invention of MAS to secure Morale's victory in 2019.

Morales also ended up in conflict with his own political base, the coca farmers, where he has his political origin. In late August, Franklin Gutiérrez, leader of a cocoa growers organization, was arrested and in May he announced his plans for his own political project ahead of the 2019 elections. The arrest was triggered by violent unrest in a village near the capital La Paz, which had its roots partly in competition between cocoa growers in different regions, especially Yungas and Chapare where Morales has its roots, and partly in their overall opposition to the government's measures against illegal cocoa cultivation. A UN study published in August showed that in 2017, coca cultivation in Bolivia increased by 1,400 hectares.

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