Political leaders from Argentina and Bolivia are shown signing the peace treaty in Buenos Aires that brought an end to the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay. More than 100,000 lives were lost during the Chaco War (1932-35), fought over a disputed territory called the Gran Chaco -- a desolate, semi-arid desert that contains the navigable Paraguay River. The river is a particularly strategic boon to South America's only landlocked nations, where oil was discovered in 1928. Paraguay received by far the largest share of the disputed territory, though the concessions to Bolivia included a corridor to the Paraguay River. Though not directly involved in the fighting, Argentina was a signatory to the peace treaty because of its status as a regional power. Other nations present at the Chaco Peace Conference were Brazil, Chile, Perú, Uruguay, and the United States.
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The Seat of Power
In a ceremony at the Government Palace in La Paz, Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (left) congratulates members of his cabinet. Sanchez de Lozada, who served as president from 1992 to 1997, was elected president again in August of 2002 after a congressional run-off determined the winner of a narrow race with the left-wing indigenous leader Evo Morales. Previously, Sanchez de Lozada carried out a widespread privatization program. He is a millionaire who was owner of the nation's largest mining company, and was raised and educated in the United States.
Che Guevara was born in Argentina. He studied to become a doctor at the University of Buenos Aires and participated in riots against Argentina's dictator, Juan Peron. In 1953, he joined leftist leader Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in Guatemala, but was forced to flee to Mexico after Arbenz was overthrown. There he met Fidel Castro and joined the 1956 rebel invasion of Cuba. Guevara became Castro's first lieutenant, eventually serving as president of Cuba's national bank and, later, as minister of industry. In 1965, he left Cuba to wage revolutionary warfare in the Congo. In 1966, he entered Bolivia under an assumed name, instigating a brief guerilla movement before he was captured and executed by the Bolivian government in 1967.
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In 1810, Simón Bolívar, a wealthy Venezuelan Creole, joined the revolution against Spain. After a defeat in 1814, he escaped to Jamaica, where he wrote La Carta de Jamaica (The Letter from Jamaica), in which he called for the establishment of British-styled republican government throughout South America. Bolívar continued his military campaigns until the present countries of Perú and Bolivia had also achieved independence, in 1821 and 1825, respectively. Yet in 1828 he proclaimed himself dictator, resulting in his near-assassination and the secession of Venezuela and Ecuador from Greater Colombia. Bolivia was named in honor of Bolívar.
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Pan American Conference
Gustavo Chacon, Bolivia's foreign minister, signs a pact during the Inter-American Conference on the Problems of War and Peace, held in Mexico City in 1945. During the conference, the Act of Chapultepec was drawn up and passed to prevent conflict in the Western Hemisphere. The act called for a unified response to acts of aggression against American states, including belligerence initiated by another American state.
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The Spanish Colonial Mint (Casa de la Moneda) in Potosi, Bolivia, shown in the foreground in 1999, was built in 1572 and has served as a mint, fortress, and prison in the years since. In the background is Cerro Rico, also known as Silver Mountain, which the Spanish conquistadors discovered in 1545 as a source for silver. Over nearly 300 years, millions of Indians and African slaves died working in what became the world's largest silver mining complex -- a vast source of Spanish wealth. When Bolivia obtained independence in 1825, the mountain's supply of silver had been exhausted, although there were still reserves of tin and zinc.
Members of the elite Bolivian riot police have locked themselves inside their own barracks as part of a police strike. In February of 2003, a day after the government announced an increase in income tax to finance Bolivia's sizable budget deficit, nearly 10,000 police participated in a strike, demanding a 40 percent pay hike. The government was forced to call in the army to substitute for the police. Students and workers joined the demonstration, and violence broke out between police and soldiers in front of the Government Palace, resulting in the death of 27 people, including 13 police officers. The tax hike was soon scrapped. Much of the financial assistance the U.S. provides for Bolivia is given for the purpose of anti-narcotics efforts; in particular, much of this money is specified for Bolivia's police and military.
Evo Morales proudly displays the certificate verifying his status as a member of Bolivia's congress. In August 1997, he became the first coca farmer to join the Bolivian congress. Morales is a leader of Bolivia's indigenous coca farmers. Coca leaves, key to native Bolivian culture, can be used to make cocaine. Efforts to eradicate Bolivia's coca crops, implemented by the United States and supported by Bolivia's government, have economically devastated the nation's Chapare and Yungas regions, where the plant is primarily grown. There is growing discontent over these policies, which has galvanized Morales politically: in August 2002, he was nearly elected president.
Pictured here in 1961, Victor Paz Estenssoro, a founder of the National Revolutionary Movement (MNR), was elected MNR president in 1951, while in exile in Argentina. Political instability in the wake of Bolivia's defeat to Paraguay in the Chaco War (1932-35) culminated in the 1952 rebellion led by the MNR, backed by the power of the nation's tin miners. The army annulled the election, resulting in a bloody revolt. Paz returned and nationalized Bolivia's mines, granted civil rights and suffrage to indigenous Bolivians, and instigated agrarian reform as well as other social measures. He later served as president from 1960-64 and 1985-89.
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