Bolivia is one of the few landlocked countries in South America. Although wide lowlands (Llanos) take up about three quarters of the country’s area, its natural area is characterized by several chains of the Andes. Between them lies the Altiplano, a high basin at an altitude of more than 3000 m with Lake Titicaca, the highest inland lake on earth.
Despite its natural wealth, Bolivia is a poor developing country. The illegal cultivation of coca and the drug trade are among the country’s serious economic and social problems.
As one of the 18 countries starting with B according to COUNTRYAAH, Bolivia borders on Brazil to the north and east, Paraguay to the southeast, Argentina to the south and Chile and Peru to the west (Fig. 1).
The Republic of Bolivia was founded in 1825. It was named in gratitude after the Latin American freedom hero SIMÓN BOLÍVAR, who brought her independence from Spain. Bolivia has three times the size of Germany in terms of area, but is very sparsely populated. The constitutional capital of the country is Sucre, named after a comrade in arms of BOLÍVAR, the seat of government is La Paz.
The large natural landscapes of Bolivia are the high mountains of the Andes in the west and tropical lowlands in the north and east. The two main chains of the Andes, the Eastern and Western Cordillera with over 6000 m high peaks, enclose the Altiplano.
This plateau lies at an altitude of 3000 to 4000 m. Together with Lake Titicaca and Lake Poopo, it also forms a basin without drainage.
The barren treeless highland steppe (Puna) of the Altiplano is used for agriculture by the highland Indians (Quechua and Aimara) (Fig. 3). The Indians make up about half of the population of Bolivia, two thirds of which live on the Altiplano. The barely populated lowlands of the Llanos, which take up 70% of the land area, begin at the steep slope of the eastern Andes chain with the headwaters of the Amazon and Paraná.
The Llanos reach in the north as far as the hot and humid marginal areas of the Amazon with its tropical rainforests.
In the south they extend to the Gran Chaco, a sparsely wooded dry savannah landscape with wide grasslands on which huge herds of cattle graze. Bolivia has a wealth of natural resources. In 1545 the world’s largest silver deposits were discovered in the southwest Altiplano. The silver mined by Indian slaves filled the treasuries of Spanish kings for almost two centuries.
Traditional mining continues to be the mainstay of the economy today and produces the main export goods.
Important data about the country
|Population density:||8 residents / km²|
|Growth of population:||1 9% / year|
|Life expectancy: (men / women)||61/66 years|
|Form of government:||Presidential Republic|
|Population groups:||Quechua 30%, Aymará 25%, mestizo (mixed race between Europeans and Indians) about 30%, Europeans (mostly of Spanish descent, who also form the ruling upper class) 15%|
|Languages:||Spanish, Quechua, Aymará|
|Religions:||Christians (Roman Catholic) 95%|
|Climate:||In the lowlands, a humid tropical climate with summer rain, average annual temperature in the northern lowlands 26 °C. In the highlands of the Andes, dry mountain climate, average annual temperature in La Paz 10 °C|
|Land use:||Forest 52%, pastures 25%, arable land 3%|
|Main export goods:||Tin, zinc, petroleum, natural gas, silver|
|Gross domestic product:||$ 7,867 million (2003)|
|Economic sectors (share of GDP 2003):||Industry 30%, agriculture 15%, services 55%|
|Gross National Product:||US $ 900 / residents (2003)|
Despite its natural wealth, Bolivia is one of the poorest developing countries in South America. Many social problems, such as poverty, hunger, inadequate medical care and schooling, are particularly widespread among the Indian population. They are even exacerbated by the high population growth.
The country’s headlines are mainly due to the unscrupulous work of the organized drug mafia. Bolivia is one of the traditional producing countries of coca, the raw material for the drug cocaine, and is the second largest coca producer in the world after Colombia.
Coca plantings are mainly found in the rainforests of the inaccessible valleys of the Eastern Cordillera.
The cultivation and processing of coca are illegal. But in 1995 drug trafficking was estimated to be around US $ 2 billion, nearly a third of GDP at the time.
As a result of punitive actions by the USA and even military operations, coca cultivation has now declined slightly. Resounding success against drug trafficking but have not yet set in, because on the one hand the leading forces of the drug mafia often have significant influence in the state and economy. On the other hand, the illegal cultivation of coca bushes is still much more profitable than the production of food for the Indian farmers, who mostly live in great poverty.