Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simón Bolívar, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825; most of its subsequent history has been a series of nearly 200 coups and counter-coups. A relatively democratic civilian government was established in the 2000s, but the leadership faces difficult problems such as deep-rooted poverty, social unrest and drug use. Current goals are to attract foreign investment, strengthen the sanitation system and lead a campaign against corruption among poor citizens.
The current president is Evo Morales, who won a majority in the 2005 elections and was sworn in at the historic Tiwanaku excavations. Morales and his party, the Movement for Socialism, were re-elected in 2009 with a new majority. President Morales is the first indigenous leader in Bolivia since before the Spanish conquest, and he has worked to promote the welfare of the long-neglected indigenous population. He is therefore popular with the indigenous majority, but people of European descent, concentrated in parts of the tropical lowlands, are often strongly opposed to him and his policies. Demonstrators often close off the streets of La Paz, particularly around Plaza Murillo, and set up roadblocks along the main roads between towns. If you take a bus from one city to another, your journey may be delayed for several hours because of these demonstrations. Sometimes miners’ pickets last for days between major cities and there are simply no buses in some directions.