Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Bolivia

Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Bolivia

Article excerpt

On August 3, 2015 bus drivers, miners, and students returned to normal life in Potosí, Bolivia, filling the streets once again after a 27-day strike led by Comité Cívico Potosinista (Civic Committee in Potosí, Comcipo). Protests against President Evo Morales and his government began in the first week of July when dialogues between the government and the Comcipo failed. Protestors blockaded the city of Potosí preventing all entrances and exits and halting commerce in the city, while others marched to the capital city of La Paz to directly challenge the national government. During negotiations Compico leaders presented a 26-point plan for infrastructure spending on roads, an airport, and a hospital, claiming that the government had neglected the department of Potosí, once the silver capital of the world.

In 1545 Spanish colonizers discovered silver in the Cerro Rico, the picturesque mountain that looms over the city of Potosí-now the capital of the department. After thirty years Potosí had become the largest city in the New World, providing a steady stream of silver and wealth to Spain. However, by the middle of the 17th century, Potosí had embarked on a long decline as silver output diminished because of the mountain's dwindling supply of the precious metal. Though the city recovered slightly when miners discovered tin in Cerro Rico in the 19th century and the mine has managed to remain active, now mining zinc, antimony, and lead in addition to silver and tin, the riches and prosperity that once existed in Potosí are a distant memory.

Despite their former prestige, today Potosí is one of the poorest departments in Bolivia. With its reliance on the mining industry, the department is vulnerable to changing mineral prices as it has few other sources for revenue. In the last few months Potosí has been hit hard by declining prices, showing the risks associated with an extractive economy. …

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