President-elect Evo Morales Ayma, the leader of the Movement to Socialism party (Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS), took office in January. A National Development Plan to improve access to fundamental rights such as health, education and justice and to end discrimination was announced. However, no information was forthcoming on its implementation.
A programme of reforms was initiated, including the formation of the Constituent Assembly which was inaugurated in August to rewrite the Constitution. A decree was passed in May to nationalize oil and gas and renegotiate contracts with foreign investors and companies, to raise taxes and to set terms for the acquisition of shares by the State. A programme of land reform was launched in June which included the distribution of state-owned land to peasants and Indigenous people.
In November, following demonstrations by Indigenous groups calling for further reforms, a law for agrarian reform was passed by Congress and signed by the President. Under the new law, unproductive private land could be expropriated by the government for redistribution to peasants. This reform was opposed by landowners in the Departments of Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando which, along with the Department of Tarija, sought autonomy during the year.
In December, civilian groups, members of Indigenous non-governmental organizations, political groups, journalists and community leaders, clashed in Santa Cruz Department in the context of the local consultation for regional autonomy. Premises of the MAS and offices of Indigenous community centres were set on fire, and members of Indigenous groups had their houses ransacked. Investigative journalists were attacked in the streets of Santa Cruz city and radio stations were forced to stop transmission due to harassment.
Bolivia ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture in May, the Additional Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights in the Area of Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, known as the "Protocol of San Salvador" in July, and the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture in November.
In July a study by the UN Development Programme and UNICEF reported that more than 39 babies in Bolivia died per day through lack of proper care, six out of 10 children and minors lacked basic needs and five out of 10 lived below the poverty line. The report called on Bolivia to recognize the role played by children in the country's development and to implement health, education and other programmes to tackle the lack of protection for children and to defend their rights.
Eradication of coca leaf crops
In September two peasants were killed and one wounded during the eradication of coca leaf crops around the Carrasco National Park in the region of Yungas de Vandiola, Department of Cochabamba, by a patrol of the Joint Task Forces made up of members of the police and army.
In October, at least nine miners were killed and dozens injured in clashes between state-employed miners and members of an independent co-operative in the mining town of Huanuni, La Paz Department. The confrontation, in which dynamite and firearms were allegedly used, was sparked by a dispute over the access rights to working areas in the tin mine. An investigation was launched.
There were reports of poor prison conditions. In Palmasola prison in the city of Santa Cruz, five inmates were killed in April, allegedly as a result of a fight between rival gangs of prisoners who were attempting to impose their rule inside the prison.
In November, inmates in 19 prisons around the country started a hunger strike demanding prompt trials and better prison conditions.
In December, the Attorney General's Office charged former President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and two former ministers with the killing of at least 60 people during demonstrations in October 2003. The authorities were seeking Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada's extradition from the USA to try him for the killings.
In November, after a visit to Bolivia, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights highlighted the lack of access to justice, particularly in rural areas, and the lack of co-operation by the security and armed forces in providing relevant information to the judicial authorities. It expressed concern about poor conditions and the high level of overcrowding in prisons and the fact that over 70 per cent of prisoners had not been sentenced. It also noted that minors were held with adult prisoners.
AI country reports/visits
• Bolivia: Open letter to the President of the Republic of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma (AI Index: AMR 18/001/2006)