HISTORY: FROM THE SPANISH CONQUEST TO THE “PACIFIC WAR” (1879-83)
Already the cradle of the remote civilization of Tiahuanaco, it was part of the Inca empire as a border mark. Towards the middle of the century. XVI was conquered by the Spaniards, who had already taken possession of Peru and the Plata basin. Its territory, included in the Viceroyalty of Perú, was called Alto Perú or, alternatively, Charcas. It was the birthplace of the Indian chief José Gabriel Condorcanqui, who in 1780, with the name of Tupac Amaru II, led his people to revolt, in a bloody and desperate attempt at emancipation from the colonial regime. Inserted in 1776 in the new Viceroyalty of Plata, Bolivia participated in the independence movement of all the Spanish possessions of America, further opposing the annexation aims of Argentina. In 1809, patriotic juntas were formed in Chuquisaca and La Paz, which gave the first directives for the fight against the Spaniards. However, they were able to react and between 1810 and 1812 stifled the movement, sending its leaders to death. On January 12, 1812, in Suipacha, the revolutionary forces were defeated by General José Manuel Goyeneche, which subjected the region to a harsh repressive regime. For the liberation it was necessary to wait for the campaigns, in Peru and in Greater Colombia, of San Martín and Bolívar. After the victory of Ayacucho (December 9, 1824), he sent General Sucre, his lieutenant, to Upper Peru. When the last Spanish resistance was crushed, Sucre completed the mission and in 1825 the new state arose which, in honor of the libertador, was called the Republic of Bolivia, a country located in South America according to thereligionfaqs. Sucre himself became its first president until 1828, when he was overthrown by a military conspiracy and the Peruvian invasion. Consequence of this situation was the dictatorship of the mestizo general Andrés de Santa Cruz, who in turn went to Peru in 1835, subjected it after defeating its army at Socabaya and established a Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation, of which he had himself proclaimed “protector”. In 1839 the alliance between Chile and Argentina against the confederation led, with the victory of Yungay, to the dissolution of the confederation itself: Peru and Bolivia returned to being independent nations. The fall of Santa Cruz started a long period in Bolivia – interrupted only by more or less stable dictatorships – of struggles between caudillos : we remember José Ballivián (1841-47) and General Manuel Isidoro Belzú (1848-55). From 1864 to 1871 the figure of General Mariano Melgarejo dominatedwho, in constant search for funds, negotiated agreements and treaties with Chilean and Brazilian companies for the transfer of rights in the Acre area and on the exploitation of nitrates in the province of Atacama. After a few years Hilarión Daza, who came to power in 1876, allied himself with Peru and engaged Bolivia in a disastrous conflict against Chile. The war, known as the “Pacific” (1879-83), caused the country to lose its province. coast of Atacama and the port of Antofagasta: this deprived the Bolivians of the only access to the sea they had and of the nitrate deposits located along the coast ceded to the Chileans. That military reversal ignited new struggles, which lasted for many years. In reality, Bolivia could not enjoy an orderly development, because there were too many imbalances affecting it. After the sinking of the confederation with Peru, the reins of power passed into the hands of the landed aristocracy, of Creole origin, who ruled with an iron fist, oppressing the Indian population. The economy, in essence, had the same physiognomy of the colonial era: it was based, that is, on the resources of agriculture and mining, directed by the large owners mainly for export. Thus the country continued to live in backwardness. mining, directed by large owners mainly for export. Thus the country continued to live in backwardness. mining, directed by large owners mainly for export. Thus the country continued to live in backwardness.
HISTORY: BETWEEN REFORMISM AND CONSERVATISM
At the turn of the century XIX and XX, the discovery of tin seemed to bring about a turning point in the country. The new resource, however, was taken over by a few privileged people, who established, with the massive contribution of foreign capital, real “baronies” of exploitation. Three companies excelled: Patiño, Aramayo (mixed Bolivian and British capitals) and Hochschild (associated with Swiss interests). Bolivia thus quickly became one of the largest tin suppliers in the world. At the same time, its governments were reduced to mere instruments operated by the “barons” and their foreign allies. Given this situation, the gains made during the First World War from the sale of raw materials did not help the country to overcome the depression of 1929. Indeed, in 1932,war of the Chaco, whose origins there were interests and rivalries of international oil companies, which was resolved only in 1938, with an agreement unfavorable for the Bolivian country. With the responsibility for the war attributed to the ruling class, the Partido de la Izquierda Revolucionaria (PIR, Party of the Revolutionary Left) and the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR, Movimento Nazionalista Revolutionario), born in this period, promoted with a revolt, even before the negotiations of peace, the expulsion from the government of the old leaders. From 1936 to 1938 Bolivia thus had two progressive regimes, headed by Colonel David Toro and Colonel Germán Busch, which introduced some social reforms. In 1937 the assets of the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey were nationalized and Busch promulgated a Democratic Constitution, but on August 23, 1939, he died under mysterious circumstances and power passed back into the hands of the old oligarchy. The Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario resumed the offensive and in 1943, with yet another upheaval, returned to the government: General Gualberto Villarroel was appointed head of state, while the party leader, Victor Paz Estenssoro, he provided behind the scenes to guide their conduct. The attempt to restore the reformist line of Toro and Busch was not successful, however, because the conservatives were able to put up a tenacious resistance. The discontent of the population was such that the conservative right, in July 1946, taking advantage of a popular uprising, which cost Villarroel his life, regained power. The ideas of the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario, however, had taken root: the presidential elections of 1951, although held according to a law that deprived the Indians and other sectors of Bolivian society from voting, conferred victory on Paz Estenssoro. Canceled the electoral results due to the intervention of the military and the oligarchs, Paz Estenssoro was forced into exile, but the following year the MNR with the help of the peasant and worker militias, he regained power. Paz Estenssoro, who took office as president of the Republic, introduced three fundamental reforms: the nationalization of the tin (i.e. of the great companies Patiño, Aramayo and Hochschild), the granting of universal suffrage (with the consequent entry into the political life of over a million Indians) and land reform. In 1956,Hernán Siles Zuazo succeeded Paz Estenssoro and the MNR regime ebbed to moderate positions, leaving some reforms incomplete or even revoking.