Bolivia tests civilian rule again

After more than two years of military rule, Bolivia is returning to civilian rule under former President Hernan Siles Zuazo, who was elected by the Bolivian Congress Oct. 5.

Monitor Latin America correspondent James Nelson Goodsell writes that the prospects for the Siles government are less than tremendous. The chronically unstable country, with nearly 200 governments in its 150 years of independence, has known relatively little political peace in recent years.

Governments spin in and out of power like a revolving door. Since 1980, date of the most recent military takeover, there have been three military rulers.

Mr. Siles - who was president from 1956 to 1960 and was elected again in 1979 , only to be deprived of inauguration by the military - is a left-of-center politician. He is strongly supported by most of Bolivia's political parties, the important unions, and a sizable portion of the public.

But he is anathema to many military men, and he must somehow work with them to prevent a new military takeover. Already several generals have warned that they are unhappy with his election.

The new president has other pressing problems. Bolivia is bankrupt economically. It is in technical default on $10.2 million in debts due last month, and it has debts of more than $600 million that are due this year - with little likelihood that it can find the foreign exchange needed to pay these obligations.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.