Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Bolivia is a constitutional, multiparty democracy with a population of approximately 9.2 million. In 2005 in a free and fair process, citizens elected Evo Morales Ayma, leader of the Movement Toward Socialism party, as president. In January 2009 citizens approved a controversial new constitution through a national referendum. Human rights problems included abuses by security forces; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; attacks on the judiciary by the executive branch; threats to press freedom and other civil liberties; use of excessive force and other abuses in internal conflicts; corruption and a lack of government transparency; discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation; trafficking in persons; child labor; forced or coerced labor; and brutal working conditions in the mining sector.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. Government's human rights and democracy objectives include fostering democratic stability and transparency and countering international crime and drug activity. The United States prioritizes the following democratic efforts: strengthening civil society; promoting the effective functioning of government institutions; ensuring free and fair elections and referenda; recognizing all citizens as equal before the law; enhancing freedom of the press; and strengthening judicial authority.

The United States also aims to help the government improve the decentralization process, ensure that professional security forces respect human rights, and rebuild a functioning judiciary. To achieve these objectives, U.S. officials consult with government institutions, NGOs, indigenous movements, labor unions, and other organizations and work with these groups to encourage reforms and discuss problems related to human rights and democracy.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

U.S. officials routinely highlight the importance of democracy and human rights during senior-level visits and in discussions with the government, civil society, and the media. The United States supports civil society and the media as key facilitators in democracy promotion. The United States organizes workshops on journalistic ethics, practicing sound journalism in hostile political environments, and on the role of the media in a democracy. To help ensure free and fair elections, U.S. programs support a network of domestic civil society organizations that monitor the conduct of elections, as well as the pre- and post-electoral periods.

The United States helps to improve access to justice and expands citizens' awareness of their rights. A U.S.-supported, Internet-accessible database of local jurisprudence, which has already received over 28 million site visits, provides the legal community and civil society with a transparent and speedy means to review court decisions. The United States also funds a case tracking system to enable prosecutors, police, and judges to manage caseloads more efficiently, produce more reliable statistics, and address citizen complaints. U.S. programs support a network of more than 100 local NGOs working to strengthen civil society advocacy and oversight of the justice system. The Access to Justice Program, a partnership between the Ministry of Justice, the judiciary, and the U.S. Government, provides legal services to tens of thousands of indigenous and other marginalized groups through integrated justice centers in areas such as El Alto, La Paz, the coca-growing regions of the Chapare and Yungas, and Santa Cruz. These centers provide citizens with access to mediation and other justice services and establish a positive government presence in areas where respect for the rule of law is fragile.

The U.S. Government focuses considerable attention on the empowerment of indigenous communities and women. In six of the country's nine departments, U.S. programs promote dialogue and teach conflict resolution skills to indigenous leaders and other members of civil society. These programs focus on transparency, land tenure, democratic leadership, and citizens' rights and responsibilities. U.S. programs send underprivileged and indigenous university and high school students to colleges and high schools throughout the United States to study American society, civics, and democracy. The U.S. Government also sponsors awareness-raising seminars to the public regarding the prevalence of violence against women and children, using speakers from the legislature, the public prosecutor's office, the police family protection brigade, and civil society representatives. The United States helped establish a women's leadership network led by female parliamentarians that represents one of the few successful forums for multiparty debate and legislative development within the country. The United States also supports democratic leadership and governance training for the largest indigenous organizations in the country.

U.S. security assistance programs routinely underscore the importance of human rights through training for police and military personnel on topics such as internationally accepted principles of nonlethal crowd control and criminal investigation. The United States provides technical assistance and financial support to four police trafficking-in-persons units operating in El Alto, La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba. U.S. assistance also supports a nationwide program, sponsored by the country's Congress, to address women's rights within the national police.