Bolivia's "left turn" toward rentier plurinationalism and its effects on ethnic tensions and solidarity
Euans, Christopher W.
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This thesis examines the establishment of plurinationalism in Bolivia and its relationship with a rentier economy based in extractive energy resources. In the early 2000s, Bolivia became part of a Leftist shift in governments across South America. With the election of Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, Bolivia cast aside neo-liberal economic policies and nationalized many of its industries, the largest being the hydrocarbon and oil industry. Utilizing strong cultural and historical symbols, Morales gained overwhelming support from the mestizo and indigenous communities. The promise of self-determination and autonomy for self-identifying indigenous groups propelled Bolivian plurinationalism forward as the answer for change in a government that finally represented the traditionally repressed majority. Energy rents supported universal pensions, education, and maternal-infant health care; these programs became the primary tools for populist-style redistribution. This thesis analyzes the effectiveness of these social programs in establishing national cohesion and identity among the Bolivian population. A historical comparison of Bolivia before plurinationalism, announced in 2005, and during the establishment of plurinationalism, 2005Ð2013, is utilized to gauge the effectiveness of the new government policy in creating national cohesion. The primary finding of this thesis is the that effective impact of social programs on national cohesion is minimal. Instead of greater Bolivian national cohesion, the primary outcome of these programs is the reinforcement of the social divide between the Morales government supporters in the western highlands and autonomy seeking groups in the eastern lowlands.
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