Civic groups across Bolivia have threatened a national strike today unless the government promises to conduct a census in 2023.
Protesters accuse leftist President Luis Arce’s government of deliberately refusing to expedite the census to prevent oppositional and regional parties from acquiring more seats in Congress. Demonstrations—which have included roadblocks and some violence—have centered in the lowland region of Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s economic core. Arce has denounced the protests as violent and in disrespect of the country’s democratic institutions.
Although La Paz has not conducted a census since 2012 and protester claims that the survey would materially impact congressional representation have merit, the protests reflect Bolivian concerns that go beyond the issue of the census alone. Indeed, the demonstrations reflect greater dissatisfaction over Arce’s management of Bolivia’s resource-rich economy. Bolivia, like its South American neighbors, suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting global economic downturn, particularly in the areas of jobs and quality of life. Thus, while Arce is expected to promise to move the census from 2024 to 2023 and this will likely lessen unrest in the short-term, if he does not address these wider economic concerns in the medium-term, expect protests to renew and intensify.
Nick is the Director of the Daily Brief and a contributing Senior Analyst to it. An attorney, his areas of expertise include international law, international and domestic criminal law, security affairs in Europe and the Middle East, and human rights.