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The Americas

South American Colonial Settlements


Modern Bolivia
AD 1825 - Present Day

Located in South America, the modern republic of Bolivia borders Peru and Chile to the west, Brazil to the north, Paraguay to the south-east, and Argentina to the south. Its capital is Sucre, although the administrative capital is at La Paz.

Bolivia was part of the viceroyalty Peru until 1776, where it was known as Upper Peru and was important for its supply of silver. When the territory was divided, Bolivia formed part of Rio de la Plata. When the wars of independence broke out in 1810 in South America, Peru re-absorbed Bolivia, but defeats on the battlefield between 1821-1824 saw the end of Spanish control. In 1825 the Congress of Upper Peru created the republic of Bolivia, named after nationalist leader Simon Bolivar, president of Gran Colombia and dictator of Peru. He was also elected the first president of Bolivia.

1825 - 1830

Simon Bolivar

Also president of Gran Colombia & Peru.

1828 - 1830

Trying to prevent the break-up of Gran Colombia, Simon Bolivar proclaims himself dictator on 27 August 1828, but he resigns on 27 April 1830 after an assassination attempt dents his confidence.

Simon Bolivar
Simon Bolivar was proclaimed 'the Liberator' for his work in freeing much of South America from Spanish colonial control, although his attempts to forge a new 'super-state' from the former colonies came to nothing

1836 - 1839

Andres de Santa Cruz

Supreme Protector of Bolivia. Defeated and fled the country.

1836 - 1841

The dictator of Peru is defeated and executed by Bolivian forces which invade the country. Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz creates the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation which survives until 1839. In that year the capital is moved to Sucre. Tension between the confederation and Chile leads to the latter declaring war on 28 December 1836. Chile's ally, the Argentine confederation, follows suit on 9 May 1837. Eventual defeat for Bolivia comes in 1839 and Santa Cruz flees to Ecuador. In 1841, the new Peruvian president attempts to return the favour by invading Bolivia, but he is defeated and killed.

1879 - 1883

Chile is victorious against Bolivia and Peru in the War of the Pacific, gaining the provinces of Arica and Tarapaca, and denying Bolivia direct access to the Pacific. By this stage, the country has lost approximately half of its territory in war.


The administrative capital is moved to La Paz, although Sucre remains the constitutional capital.


The province of Acre is persuaded by Brazil to secede from Bolivia as part of the Treaty of Petropolis. The treaty, signed on 11 November, ends tensions between the two countries.


Peru's border with Bolivia is ratified with the Treaty of Polo-Bustamante which formally partitions Lake Titicaca, and also marks the boundary with Tacna (which until then had been part of Chile).

1917 - 1918

In April 1917, Bolivia declares for the allies in the First World War against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian empire, but does not take any active part in the war.

1932 - 1935

The Chaco War arises between Bolivia and Paraguay over the Gran Chaco region when oil is discovered nearby, leading both countries to believe that the region is rich in oil. Following its defeat by the Triple Alliance in 1870, Paraguay is reluctant to lose the territory, or the economic benefits an oil find might deliver, and skirmishes have been taking place between the two protagonists since the late 1920s. Frustrated with the course of the war, Bolivian generals seize their president on 27 November 1934 and replace him with the vice-president. A ceasefire is negotiated on 10 June 1935 (and recognised in 1938), by which time Paraguay controls about three-quarters of the territory.

1943 - 1945

Following the declaration of the United Nations in 1942, Bolivia joins the Second World War as an ally of the USA and Great Britain on 7 April 1943, against Japan, Germany and Italy.

1951 - 1952

The nationalist party wins the 1951 presidential elections but their candidate is blocked from taking up his post. The following year the party leads a revolution which successfully places Víctor Paz Estenssoro in charge of a progressive, liberalising, but controversial government.

1964 - 1966

A military coup overthrows the nationalist government. Two years later, a member of the military junta which governs the country, Rene Barrientos Ortuno, is elected president. He heads the first of a progression of weak governments.


Alarmed by the state of the country under the current presidency, the nationalist party and the military install Colonel Hugo Banzer Suarez as president.

1974 - 1978

Banzer is impatient with the ruling coalition and the splits which delay any decision-making processes, so he replaces civilians with military staff and suspends all political activities. Although the country improves to an impressive degree, he is forced to call elections in 1978.

1980 - 1982

Following two years of fraudulent elections, minor coups, and interim governments, General Meza instigates a bloody coup while promising to remain in power for just a year when popular sentiment reveals how unwelcome his coup really is. He is deposed by a military government when he changes his mind about stepping down. Presidential rule is returned in 1982.

1980 - 1981

Luis Garcia Meza Tejada

Dictator. Deposed.

2006 - 2007

Violent clashes occur when the government attempts to push through equality laws for the indigenous minority by changing the rules on majority voting.