Bolivia: Political and Economic Developments and Relations with the United States [Updated November 14, 2008] [open pdf - 231KB]
"Bolivia has experienced a period of political volatility, with the country having had six presidents since 2001. Evo Morales, an indigenous leader and head of Bolivia's coca growers' union, and his party, the leftist Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), won a convincing victory in the December 18, 2005, presidential election with 54% of the votes. Early in his term, President Morales moved to decriminalize coca cultivation and nationalized the country's natural gas industry. His efforts to reform the Bolivian constitution have, until recently, been stymied by a strong opposition movement led by the leaders (prefects) of Bolivia's wealthy eastern provinces who are seeking greater regional autonomy. In December 2007, the Constituent Assembly elected in mid-2006 passed a draft constitution without the presence of opposition delegates. In late August 2008, President Morales, buoyed by the strong support he received in a national recall referendum held on August 10, 2008, proposed to convoke a referendum on the draft constitution in December 2008. He later agreed to seek congressional approval for that referendum. Several opposition prefects were angered by Morales' proposal, and launched protests and blockades, which turned violent in mid-September. On October 20, 2008, after multiparty negotiations on the draft constitution's text, the Bolivian Congress approved legislation convoking a constitutional referendum to be held on January 25, 2009. U.S.-Bolivian relations have been strained by the Morales government's drug policy and its increasing ties with Venezuela."
CRS Report for Congress, RL32580