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Title: Bolivia Human Rights Practices, 1995
Author:  U.S. Department of State
Date:  March 1996


A constitutional, multiparty democracy with an elected president and 
bicameral legislature, Bolivia has separate executive, legislative, and 
judicial branches with an attorney general independent of all three.  
The judiciary, while independent, is notoriously corrupt and 
inefficient.  The executive and legislative branches share these defects 
to some extent.  Constitutional amendments to reform the political and 
judicial systems which were approved in August 1994 were only partially 
implemented by the end of 1995.

The National Police have primary responsibility for internal security, 
although the army, navy, and air force can be called upon for help in 
critical situations.  A special antinarcotics force (FELCN), including 
the Mobile Rural Patrol Unit (UMOPAR), is dedicated to antinarcotics 
enforcement.  Civilian authorities maintain effective control of the 
security forces, but some members of these forces committed human rights 

Although rich in minerals and hydrocarbons, Bolivia has an annual per 
capita gross domestic product of about $1,000.  Principal exports are 
minerals, natural gas, and other raw materials; traditional agriculture 
dominates the domestic economy.  Poverty is endemic.  Many Bolivians 
lack such basic services as water, electricity, sewers, and primary 
health care.  The centralized economy has long depended heavily on 
foreign aid.  To promote development and a transition to a market 
economy, the Government is carrying out a program of privatization, 
deficit reduction, to strengthen the banking system, and encourage 
increased exports and foreign investment.

The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; 
however, legal and institutional deficiencies prevented their full 
protection.  The Government launched several initiatives to improve this 
situation, but implementation was slow.  The most pervasive human rights 
abuse continued to be prolonged incarceration of detainees due to 
antiquated procedures, inefficiency, and corruption in the judicial 
system.  The Government's declaration of a state of siege in April, 
although permitted by the Constitution, was viewed by human rights 
groups and opposition politicians as a violation of human rights.  
Controversy continued as to whether certain actions, such as temporary 
detentions, taken to implement the state of siege, were unconstitutional 
and constituted violations of human rights.

There were credible reports of abuses by police, such as petty theft and 
extortion.  Police remained reluctant to prosecute their own colleagues 
for offenses, although several policemen were discharged and arrested 
for rape and for culpable negligence in a prisoner's death.  
Investigations refuted claims by coca growers that the deaths of four 
farm workers in separate confrontations with police were extrajudicial 
murders.  Other problems include substandard prison conditions, violence 
and discrimination against women, discrimination and abuse of indigenous 
people, abuse of children, and inhuman working conditions in the mining 


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 

  a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated killings.  There were 
allegations of extrajudicial killings.

Coca growers unions alleged that five deaths of farm workers in separate 
confrontations with antinarcotics police in the Chapare region were 
extrajudicial murders.  Although some of the findings were disputed, 
investigations conducted by the executive and legislative branches 
indicated that two of the deaths resulted from justified use of 
defensive force by police, two were caused accidentally by other 
protesting farm workers, and one is still undetermined.  The 
investigation continues.  On July 21, a still-unidentified peasant died 
from shrapnel injuries sustained on July 15 when a dynamite bomb was 
thrown into a police truck carrying police and arrestees during a large, 
violent confrontation over coca eradication in the Chapare.  Police 
arrested several coca growers in September and charged them with having 
supplied and used the improvised bombs.

In August a large group of armed peasants pursued an UMOPAR patrol which 
had arrested several coca growers and seized cocaine base, U.S. 
currency, and a shotgun.  A second UMOPAR patrol fired warning shots, 
one of which--possibly a ricochet--apparently struck and killed Juan 
Ortiz Diaz.  On August 18, UMOPAR officers shot and killed Jose Mejia 
Pisa after he had shot and seriously wounded an UMOPAR member.  On 
September 2, Roman Crespo Condori died of a gunshot wound sustained 
during a confrontation between peasants and UMOPAR forces.  An autopsy 
revealed that Crespo's wound resulted from a shotgun pellet, a weapon 
commonly used by peasants but not used by the UMOPAR.  In November 
police shot and killed 13-year-old Janeth Veliz Vargas during 
confrontations between peasants and police.  Both the executive branch 
and the Congress immediately sent investigative commissions to the 
Chapare in response to these incidents.  The autopsies of Ortiz and 
Crespo were performed in the presence of nongovernmental observers.  
Leaders of the coca growers and some nongovernmental
organizations disputed some of the findings in these cases, and the 
government investigations are still open; evidence available to date, 
however, refutes allegations that these deaths were extrajudicial 
killings or the results of unjustified police force.

At the end of 1994, five police officials including a colonel were 
arrested and charged with culpable negligence in the death of a prisoner 
who succumbed to unnoticed internal injuries shortly after his arrest.

Former dictator General Luis Garcia Meza, convicted in absentia for 
political murder and other crimes committed during his 1980's regime, 
was extradited from Brazil early in the year and began serving his 
sentence in a maximum security prison.  The police officer accused in 
1994 of murdering coca worker Felipe Perez Ortiz escaped from custody in 
September of that year and has not been recaptured.

  b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.

  c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 

The Government honors the constitutional prohibition on torture.  
However, there were widespread allegations that police used undue force 
in detaining labor activists under the state of siege and farm workers 
during antinarcotics operations.  Although many clearly were politically 
motivated exaggerations, the similarity and volume of such allegations 
suggest that they had some basis in truth.  However, no incriminating 
evidence came to light, and no security personnel were charged or tried.  
In an isolated case, three policemen were fired and held for trial for 
allegedly raping a juvenile prisoner.

The Congressional Human Rights Committee issued a report in October 
resurrecting allegations that police officials had in past years 
tortured captured terrorists and recommending that criminal proceedings 
be opened against named officers.  The report was awaiting action by the 
Congress at year's end.

Prisons are overcrowded, and conditions can be life threatening for 
inmates without money.  Ability to pay can determine cell size, visiting 
privileges, day-pass eligibility, and place or even length of 
confinement.  Cell prices range from $20 to $5,000, paid to prior 
occupants or to prisoners who control cell blocks.  In the poorest parts 
of La Paz' San Pedro Prison, for example, inmates occupy tiny cells (3 
by 4 by 6 feet) with no ventilation, lighting, or beds.  Crowding in 
some "low-rent" sections obliges inmates to sleep sitting up.  Children 
up to 6 years old may live with an incarcerated parent; an estimated 400 
children do so.  Authorities worked to get such children out of prisons, 
but many have nowhere else to go.  The standard prison diet, according 
to a recent outside study, can cause anemia.  Drugs and alcohol are 
readily available for those who can pay.  There is no adequate health 
care within the prisons, and it is very difficult for prisoners to get 
permission for medical treatment outside.  There was at least one 
confirmed case in which a prisoner died while awaiting permission for 
outside emergency care.  Affluent prisoners, however, can obtain 
transfers to preferred prisons for "medical" reasons.  The Government 
permits visits by human rights and news media representatives.

There were credible reports that coca growers unions used physical 
coercion and intimidation to prevent farm workers from cooperating with 
the Government in coca eradication.

Indigenous communities in areas with little or no central government 
presence impose corporal punishment such as whipping on members who 
violate traditional laws or rules, although such punishment is forbidden 
by the national Constitution.

  d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Radical labor union elements carried out frequent and increasingly 
violent demonstrations in an effort to defeat government privatization 
and educational reform programs.  In response, the Government declared a 
90-day state of siege on April 18.  In the first 3 days of the 
emergency, security forces arrested more than 400 persons and sent over 
300 of them to temporary confinement in military bases away from urban 
areas.  Some detainees were released on April 19, and more were freed 
over the following 3 weeks.  By May 4, all had been released except a 
handful who were being investigated for possible criminal offenses.  
These persons, too, were freed by mid-May.  Except for a shortlived 
curfew and a ban on politically oriented gatherings, the Government 
imposed no extraordinary measures.  When the state of siege expired, the 
Government renewed it for an additional 90 days.

The state of siege, approved by the Congress, was a constitutional 
measure.  There were complaints, however, that the detentions were not 
confirmed by courts within 48 hours as the Constitution requires.  
Constitutional questions also arose from the arrest of an international 
group of coca advocates a few hours before the state of siege was 
formally proclaimed.  These questions have not been resolved.

Denial of justice through prolonged detention remains the most pervasive 
human rights problem.  Judicial corruption, a shortage of public 
defenders, inadequate case-tracking mechanisms, and complex criminal 
justice procedures keep persons incarcerated for months, or even years, 
before trial.  Government and nongovernmental estimates agree that 85 to 
90 percent of all persons in custody have yet to be sentenced.  The 
Constitution provides for judicial determination of the legality of 
detention.  Prisoners are released if a judge rules detention illegal, 
but the process can take months.  Prisoners may see a lawyer, but public 
defenders are overburdened.  Bail exists, except in some drug cases, and 
is generally granted.  Many persons, however, cannot afford it.  Persons 
tried under the counternarcotics law must await Supreme Court 
confirmation or rejection of lower courts' verdicts--a process involving 
prolonged delays.

The Government is addressing the problem of delay of justice by 
gradually implementing the 1994 constitutional reforms to streamline the 
judicial system.  The 1994 law ending imprisonment for debt has brought 
the release of hundreds of prisoners who could not afford to pay their 
creditors, attorneys, or court costs.  At mid-year, the Congress 
approved five new magistrates to complete the Supreme Court bench, 
ending a period of 18 months in which the court was not fully staffed or 
fully functional.  The Minister of Justice introduced a draft law in the 
autumn congressional session that would permit pretrial release on 
personal recognizance, and provisional liberty for those declared 
innocent but awaiting review or appeal, or those already imprisoned 
longer than the maximum sentence for their alleged offense.  The new law 
would also shorten the permissible time for various stages of the penal 
process, including preventive detention.  Congress approved this law and 
it was promulgated February 2, 1996.  The Minister of Justice proposed, 
and the Supreme Court approved, pardons for 130 elderly and very young 
prisoners as recommended by public defenders.

Children age 11 to 16 can be detained indefinitely for known or 
suspected offenses, or for their protection, simply on the orders of a 
social worker.  There is no judicial review.  It is estimated that over 
700 children were detained in this manner in juvenile centers equivalent 
to jails at year's end.  Within the centers, convicted child criminals 
are not segregated from children who are confined either as suspects or 
due to abandonment or by reason of mental disability.  Medical care and 
rehabilitation programs are scarce to nonexistent.  The Government has 
acknowledged this problem but says that it does not have sufficient 
resources to correct it quickly.  The National Agency for Minors, Women, 
and the Family (ONAMFA) began efforts to return 200 minors to their 
families in the hope that social workers might help to reintegrate them 
into society.  In addition, ONAMFA plans to relocate juveniles who have 
no homes to private foster care or to other more appropriate centers.

The Government does not use forced exile as a punishment.

  e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judiciary is independent, but corruption and intimidation in the 
judicial system remain major problems.  Poor pay and 

working conditions help make judges and prosecutors susceptible to 
bribes.  Five Supreme Court magistrates, including the newly elected 
president of the court, face investigations and possible corruption 
charges.  Several lower court judges, as well as some prosecutors, were 
the subjects of similar allegations during the year, resulting in some 
firings and pending legal actions.

The judicial system has four levels:  these are investigative, trial, 
and superior courts, with the Supreme Court at the apex.  Police present 
the case of an arrested person to a prosecutor.  If the prosecutor 
decides to prosecute, the case is then submitted to an investigative 
court which decides whether there is sufficient evidence to issue an 
indictment; if so, the case goes to a trial court.  The trial court's 
decision may be appealed to superior court and, eventually, to the 
Supreme Court.  Bail is usually available.  Cases of persons arrested 
under the counternarcotics law go directly from a special prosecutor to 
the trial court.  The trial court's decision must be reviewed by the 
district superior court which may confirm, lower, raise, or annul the 
sentence, or impose a sentence where there was none before.  Both the 
district prosecutor and the defense attorney may make recommendations 
and comments at this stage.  Superior court decisions in narcotics cases 
must be reviewed by the Supreme Court whose decision is final.  During 
this process, the accused must remain incarcerated, even if declared 
innocent by the initial trial court.  There is no bail in narcotics 

Authorities generally respect the constitutional guarantee of the right 
to a fair public trial.  However, the maximum time periods permitted by 
law for different stages of the judicial process frequently are 
exceeded.  Investigation, trial, and appeal procedures can take so long 
that prisoners may serve more time than the sentence for the crime with 
which they are charged.  Defendants have the right to an attorney, to 
confront witnesses, to present evidence, and to appeal judicial 
decisions.  The authorities generally honor these rights.  Although the 
law provides for a defense attorney at public expense if needed, one is 
not always available.  The highly formal and corrupt judicial system 
makes it difficult for poor, illiterate persons to have effective access 
to courts and legal redress.

There were no reports of political prisoners.

  f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The Constitution provides for the sanctity of the home and the privacy 
of citizens, and government authorities generally respect these 
provisions.  There were credible allegations of UMOPAR abuses involving 
illegal searches and thefts of property from homes.  However, residents 
in the coca growing areas generally are reluctant to file and pursue 
formal complaints, and there were no known prosecutions of UMOPAR 
officials.  In August the Government and coca growers union 
representatives agreed to form a mixed commission with offices 
throughout the Chapare coca-growing region, where most offenses 
allegedly occur.  These offices would accept and pursue complaints of 
human rights abuses committed by anyone, including police, narcotics 
traffickers, or coca growers.  The first such office began to function 
in Chimore in December.

The Government respects the rights of individuals to determine family 
size, religion, and political affiliations.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

  a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for the fundamental right to express ideas and 
opinions freely by any means of dissemination.  There are, therefore, no 
legal or institutional barriers to freedom of speech and press.

State-owned and private radio and television stations operated freely.  
Newspapers are privately owned; most adopt antigovernment positions.  
Some reporters were arrested at union offices when the state of siege 
was declared, and others were slightly injured in the violent 
demonstrations that preceded it.  Although news media portrayed these 
incidents as targeted official interference with press freedom, they 
evidently were the accidental result of the journalists being in the 
wrong place at the wrong time.  Those who were arrested in the union 
raids were released quickly once their media credentials were 
established.  Injuries suffered by reporters in demonstrations were few 
and less severe than those suffered by some police and demonstrators in 
the same encounters.

The Government respects academic freedom, and the law grants public 
universities autonomous status.  Some Marxist groups of teachers and 
students sought to deny academic freedom and to impose their political 
agenda on the education process.  They aimed to paralyze the 
Government's education reform plan, which reduced the block revenue 
grants to universities and subjects teachers to academic quality 
controls by the Government and the community.

  b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The law provides for the rights of peaceful assembly and association, 
and the authorities respect them in practice.  The Government routinely 
grants permits for marches and rallies and, as a rule, authorities try 
to avoid confronting demonstrators.  Labor, political, and student 
groups carried out many demonstrations and rallies, often dangerously 
violent, in La Paz and other cities in the first quarter of the year.  
The prohibition of politically oriented gatherings pursuant to the state 
of siege was a constitutional measure.  Despite this general 
prohibition, however, authorities approved many public demonstrations 
including a labor federation march to celebrate May day.

  c.  Freedom of Religion

Roman Catholicism predominates, and the Constitution recognizes it as 
the official religion.  However, citizens may practice the religion of 
their choice.  About 400 religious groups, mostly Protestant, are 
active.  Missionary groups must register with the Foreign Ministry as 
nongovernmental organizations (NGO's); there was no indication that they 
were treated differently from other NGO's.  The Ministry did not 
disallow any registrations by missionary groups.

  d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation

There are no restrictions on travel.  The law permits emigration and 
guarantees the right to return.  The Government does not revoke 
citizenship for political reasons.  The Government cooperates with the 
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian 
organizations in assisting refugees.  Some refugees were accepted for 
resettlement.  There were no reports of forced expulsion of anyone 
having a valid claim to refugee status.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government

The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their 
government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice 
through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of 
universal suffrage.

Political parties ranging from far left to moderate right function 
openly.  The "popular participation law" passed in April 1994 gave local 
communities greater influence in government decisionmaking and control 
of more discretionary revenues.  Its impact was greatest in rural areas 
which formerly had few or no financial resources and no voice in the way 
central government funds were spent.  The Government conducted a 
nationwide campaign to register new voters, particularly those 
heretofore hampered by a lack of vital documentation.

No legal impediments exist to women or indigenous people voting, holding 
political office, or rising to political leadership.  Nevertheless, the 
number of women and indigenous 

people who have prominent positions in politics remains small, but with 
notable exceptions such as Vice President Victor Hugo Cardenas, an 

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

A number of human rights groups operate without government restriction, 
investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases.  
Government officials are generally cooperative and responsive to their 
views.  The Human Rights Commission of the Congress is very active and 
frequently criticizes the Government publicly.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based upon race, sex, 
language, religion, political or other opinion, origin, or economic or 
social condition.  Nonetheless, there was significant discrimination 
against women, indigenous people, and the small black minority.


Violence against women is pervasive.  A study by the National Institute 
of Statistics covering the July 1992-June 1993 period found that 40 
percent of all reported violent attacks in La Paz department were 
perpetrated against women.  Ninety-five percent of the attackers were 
male; in 71 percent of the cases the attacker was closely related to the 
victim.  Of these domestic violence complaints, 52 percent involved 
physical mistreatment and 48 percent involved psychological abuse.  A 
total of 11,069 complaints of violence against women were registered in 
La Paz during this period.  The Government currently estimates that 
there are about 100,000 incidents of violence against women annually 
nationwide and that as many as 95 percent of them go unpunished.  The 
Congressional Committee on Women reported that an average of 3.5 cases 
of rape or statutory rape were reported each day for the first half of 
1995 and estimated that twice that many cases were not reported.

The Government continued to implement a program for the protection of 
women.  In 1994 the Congress adopted as national law the Inter-American 
Convention for the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence 
against Women.  In December Congress passed the Law on Domestic Violence 
making rape a public crime.  The Law was promulgated by year's end.

Comprehensive legal services offices continued to be established to help 
and support women.  The first 15 such offices handled about 1,500 cases 
per month.  Special family protection police units, staffed by 30 female 
officers, began operating in La Paz in January and responded to an 
average of 20 complaints per day in their first months.  A shortage of 
female officers has slowed their expansion.  Other steps in the program 
include revisions to school curricula and educating health care 
providers about the appropriate manner of dealing with female patients.

Sexual harassment is not defined as a crime in the Penal Code.  
Individuals prosecuted for harassment must be tried under other penal 
provisions.  A former Commander of the Navy, for example, accused of 
sexually harassing the wives of subordinates, was tried in a military 
court for abuse of authority and unethical official conduct.  He was 
eventually acquitted.  Two officials of a major city are under 
investigation for alleged sexual harassment of a colleague.  There are 
no statistics on the incidence of sexual harassment, but the problem is 
generally acknowledged to exist widely in a male-oriented society.

Women generally do not enjoy a social status equal to that of men.  Many 
women do not know their legal rights; traditional prejudices and social 
conditions remain obstacles to advancement.  Women generally earn less 
than men for equal work.  Young girls often leave school to work at home 
or on the economy.  Although not effectively enforced, the national 
labor law is over protective in some aspects, limiting women to a 
workday 1 hour shorter than that of men and prohibiting them from 
working at night.


The Government is aware of the precarious situation of children and the 
need to provide legal and institutional infrastructures for their 
protection.  However, the Government has not given the situation 
sufficient political priority to ensure that it will be met quickly and 
effectively.  Government surveys suggest that about 1 million children 
(that is, about 1 child in 3) suffer physical or psychological abuse--13 
percent of them at school, where corporal punishment and verbal abuse 
are common, and 87 percent at home.  About 20 percent of all children 
suffer abuse severe enough to result in bruises, scars, or burns.

The Government announced in August that a national network had been 
created to prevent and treat child abuse.  The network comprises seven 
subsystems:  legal, education, communication, family, community, 
information, and health.  In April the Government approved a United 
Nations-supported program of night school for working children and 
adolescents.  The Government's child protective agency, ONAMFA, 
announced implementation of a multidisciplinary approach to treating 
families with mistreated children, beginning in October.  All of these 
initiatives will depend on the continuing availability of resources to 
be fully effective.

Although laws provide safeguards against children working, they are not 
effectively enforced, and many children (about 216,000 according to the 
National Institute of Statistics) work, usually for family subsistence, 
in uncontrolled and sometimes unhealthy conditions (see Section 6.d.).  
Statistics from the Ministry of Planning's Education Reform Team show 
that in rural areas, only 0.7 percent of girls and 1.4 percent of boys 
finish high school; in urban areas, 26 percent of girls and 31 percent 
of boys do so.

The National Institute of Statistics calculated that 47 percent of 
children in La Paz were chronically undernourished, and that 10 percent 
of the children migrating from rural areas showed evidence of acute 

Many children, particularly from rural areas, lack the birth 
certificates and identity documents they need to secure society's 
benefits and protections.  There were credible allegations that as many 
as 200 juveniles, for instance, were incarcerated as adults in the San 
Pedro jail for want of reliable civil documents proving their ages.  The 
1994 Education Reform Act sought to better the situation of children; 
even optimistic observers, however, noted it will take years for it to 
have an impact.  The Minor's Code promulgated in 1992 has proven 
inadequate, and the Government is working with interested NGO's on a 
revised Code to be considered in the 1995-96 congressional session.  A 
revised labor law now in preparation would give the Government a 
stronger juridical framework in which to deal effectively with child 

The old practice of "criadito" service still persists in some parts of 
Bolivia.  Criaditos are indigenous children of both sexes, usually 10 to 
12 years old, whom their parents indenture to middle- and upper-class 
families to perform household work in exchange for education, clothing, 
room, and board.  There are no controls over the benefits to, or 
treatment of, such children, who may become virtual slaves for the years 
of their indenture.

  People With Disabilities

In December the Congress passed a law on disabilities drafted by the 
Senate Commission on Social Development and interested NGO's.  The law 
guarantees equal employment and social rights to the disabled, provides 
incentives to employers, and requires national and local governmental 
agencies to strengthen or create units charged with responsibility for 
the disabled.  The new electoral law made arrangements for blind voters.  
In general, however, there are no special services or infrastructure to 
accommodate people with disabilities.  Social attitudes have kept many 
disabled persons at home from an early age, limiting their integration 
into society.

According to the director of the National Institute of Child 
Development, 96,000 children have mental disabilities, 37,000 have 
physical disabilities, 4,000 have hearing impairments, and 2,500 have 
visual impairments.  Because of scarce resources, only about 400 of 
these children were treated in government facilities.

  Indigenous People

Discrimination against, and abuses of, indigenous people continued.  The 
Indian majority generally remains at the low end of the socioeconomic 
scale, facing severe disadvantages in health, life expectancy, 
education, income, literacy, and employment.  Lack of education, 
inefficient farming and mining methods, indigenous cultural practices, 
inability to speak Spanish, and societal biases keep the indigenous 
people poor.  They continued to be exploited in the workplace.  Some 
rural indigenous workers are kept in a state of virtual slavery by 
employers who charge them more for room and board than they earn.

The Government prepared a decree to make rural agricultural workers 
subject to the labor law to afford them better protection.  Indigenous 
peoples complain that their territories are not legally defined and 
protected, and that their resources are exploited by outsiders.  
Specific offenders allegedly are coca growers and timber pirates.

Indigenous groups have taken advantage of the Popular Participation Law 
to form municipalities that will offer them greater opportunities for 
self-determination.  By the end of the year, they had established six 
municipalities.  In August the Government formed a "National Committee 
for the International Decade of Indigenous Peoples" to plan, evaluate, 
coordinate and publicize programs to increase self-determination, and to 
set goals and objectives.

At the end of 1994, the first 100 children graduated from a pilot 
program of bilingual education in Aymara, Quechua, or Guarani and 
Spanish.  The President has stated his firm commitment to teaching all 
children in both their native language and Spanish.  A lack of personnel 
qualified to teach in the indigenous languages inhibits the expansion of 
this program.

Section 6  Worker Rights

  a.  The Right of Association

Workers may form and join organizations of their choosing.  The Labor 
Code requires prior government authorization to establish a union, 
permits only one per enterprise, and allows the Government to dissolve 
unions; however, the Government has not enforced these provisions in 
recent years.  While the Code denies civil servants the right to 
organize and bans strikes in public services, including banks and public 
markets, nearly all civilian government workers are unionized.  Workers 
are not penalized for union activities.  In theory, the Bolivian Labor 
Federation (COB) represents virtually the entire work force;  however, 
only about one-half of the workers in the formal economy actually belong 
to labor unions.  Some members of the informal economy also participate 
in labor organizations.  Workers in the private sector frequently 
exercise the right to strike.  Solidarity strikes are illegal, but the 
Government has not prosecuted those responsible nor imposed penalties.

Significant strikes centered around annual negotiations over salaries 
and benefits for public employees.  However, their real targets were the 
Government's economic and social reform programs.  Most strikes were 
conducted and led by the militant Trotskyite element of the Urban 
Teachers Union.  Other major disturbances occurred in the Chapare region 
where the coca growers unions opposed government eradication efforts.  
Strikers and demonstrators marched, set up roadblocks, and used 
improvised weapons including dynamite bombs against police and property.  
Normal activity in major cities was frequently paralyzed by rioting 
unionists until the Government imposed a state of siege in April.

Unions are not free from influence by political parties.  Most parties 
have labor committees that try to influence union activity, causing 
fierce political battles within unions.  Most also have party activists 
in the unions.  The law allows unions to join international labor 
organizations.  The COB became an affiliate of the communist, formerly 
Soviet-dominated, World Federation of Trade Unions in 1988.

  b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Workers may organize and bargain collectively.  In practice, collective 
bargaining, defined as voluntary direct negotiations between unions and 
employers without participation of the Government, is limited.  
Consultations between government representatives and labor leaders are 
common, but there are no collective bargaining agreements as defined 
above.  In state industries, the union issues a list of demands and the 
Government concedes some points.  Private employers often use public 
sector settlements as guidelines for their own adjustments, and some 
private employers exceed the Government settlements.  The Government, 
conscious of International Monetary Fund guidelines, rarely grants wage 
increases exceeding inflation.

The law prohibits discrimination against union members and organizers.  
Complaints go to the National Labor Court, which can take a year or more 
to rule.  The court has ruled in favor of discharged workers in some 
cases and successfully required 

their reinstatement.  However, union leaders say problems are often moot 
by the time the court rules.

Labor law and practice in the seven special duty-free zones are the same 
as in the rest of the country.

  c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor.  However, the practice of 
criadito service and agricultural servitude by indigenous workers (see 
Section 5) constitute violations as do some individual cases of 
household workers effectively imprisoned by their employers.

  d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The law prohibits employment of persons under 18 years of age in 
dangerous, unhealthy, or immoral work.  The Labor Code is ambiguous on 
conditions of employment for minors age 14 to 17, and permits 
apprenticeship for those 12 to 14 years old.  This practice has been 
criticized by the International Labor Organization, and the Government 
is preparing legislation reforming this and other provisions of the 
Labor Code.

Responsibility for enforcing child labor provisions resides in the Labor 
Ministry, but it generally does not enforce provisions about employment 
of children.  Although the law requires all children to complete at 
least 5 years of primary school, the requirement is poorly enforced 
particularly in rural areas.  Urban children hawk goods, shine shoes, 
and assist transport operators.  Rural children often work with parents 
from an early age.  Children are not generally employed in factories or 
formal businesses but, when employed, often work the same hours as 

  e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

In conformity with the law, the minimum wage is subject to annual 
renegotiation and was adjusted in May to approximately $42 (200 
bolivianos) per month plus bonuses and fringe benefits.  The minimum 
wage does not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and 
family, and most workers earn more.  Although the minimum wage falls 
below prevailing wages in most jobs, certain fringe benefits are pegged 
to it.  The minimum wage does not cover about 20 percent of urban 
workers--vendors and shoe polishers, for example--nor does it cover 
farmers, some 30 percent of the working population.

Only half the urban labor force enjoys an 8-hour workday and a workweek 
of 5 or 5 1/2 days, because the maximum workweek of 44 hours is not 
enforced.  The Labor Ministry's Bureau of Occupational Safety has 
responsibility for protection of workers' health and safety, but 
relevant standards are poorly enforced.  Working conditions in the 
mining sector are particularly bad.  Although the State Mining 
Corporation has an office responsible for safety, many mines, often old 
and using antiquated equipment, are dangerous and unhealthy.  In some 
cooperative mines, miners earn less than $3 per 12-hour day.  They work 
without helmets, boots, or respirators in mines where toxic gases 
abound; they buy their own supplies, including dynamite, have no 
scheduled rest periods, and must survive underground from 24 to 72 hours 
continuously with little water and food.  There are no special 
provisions in law defining when workers may remove themselves from 
dangerous situations.  Unless the work contract covers this area, any 
worker who refuses to work based on the individual's judgment of 
excessively dangerous conditions may face dismissal.


[end of document]


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