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Bolivia Country Report

Country Risk Level

Medium

Overview

Executive Summary

The Bolivian general election has been postponed again until 18 October 2020 due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-virus outbreak, with a new government likely by January 2021. The previous October 2019 election was annulled on allegations of electoral fraud, with a transitional government led by interim President (and presidential candidate) Jeanine Áñez who has been in power since then. A July poll showed Áñez in third place with 14% of voting intention for the presidency, behind candidates Luis Arce of former ruling party Movement for Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo: MAS) and Carlos Mesa of coalition Citizen Community (CC), both with 26%. The spread of the COVID-19 virus in Bolivia has accelerated since a gradual lifting of the lockdown began in June. The healthcare system is likely to remain overstretched in the three-month outlook. There are also high risks of protests over job losses and by social groups opposing the government, involving confrontations with security forces in Cochabamba department and El Alto. Strike risks will also increase in the next 12 months as lockdown restrictions are eased because of high job insecurity and likely salary caps.IHS Markit’s current 2020 forecast for Bolivia is a 5.5% contraction in GDP, partly because of low global commodity prices negatively affecting natural gas revenues. Gas exports have also been hit by weak demand from key markets Brazil and Argentina (recession is forecast for both countries in 2020). However, our current GDP forecast for 2021 is 3.0% growth.Jeanine Áñez's decision to run for the presidency means that we can expect public spending to remain high, as her administration attempts to appease voters. The central bank is also likely to encourage private consumption by keeping interest rates low and consumer credit readily available.

Operational Outlook

Disruptive general civic strikes, as seen during October-November 2019, are highly likely during the remainder of 2020 due to controversy around the October 2020 election and higher job insecurity. These would likely become more disruptive if opposition party Movement Toward Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo: MAS) party loses the election. Corruption is commonplace among state officials, the judiciary, and the private sector. Contracts signed with state oil and electricity companies would be at risk of revision under a non-MAS government in 2021, because of likely corruption investigations.

Terrorism

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 Chapare region of Cochabamba, engage sporadically in confrontations with state security forces, while risks of arson and vandalism against government property by social groups have increased as part of politically motivated protests. Two separate improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in the city of Oruro in February 2018 that killed eight people and injured 40 others were attributed to a personal feud rather than terrorism.

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, cargo theft by criminal groups has become more prevalent 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.

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 against Chile. Any new government would be likely to uphold these claims. A secessionist movement in the eastern department of Santa Cruz that erupted in 2008 has weakened and is currently unlikely to be significantly revived. The deployment of military force is likely to remain limited to anti-narcotics operations, the pursuit of serious criminals around the Brazilian border and Santa Cruz, and occasionally to contain anti-government unrest.

Social Stability

We expect violent protests around the October 2020 general election, becoming prolonged if the result is disputed. In 2021, protests are also likely over lack of financial support and basic goods as a result of economic recession. Most protests consist of roadblocks, 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.

Health Risk

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.

Natural Risks

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.

Transportation

High

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.

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:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal