Bolivia has the highest proportion of indigenous people in the Americas, amounting to 35 per cent of the total population in the 2012 national census. In 2005 the country elected the first indigenous President in the region, Evo Morales, and since then has pursued a sustained policy of 'decolonization' to deliver systematic improvements to the situation of indigenous peoples and minorities. Nevertheless, Bolivia's long history of colonial violence and discrimination continues to affect these groups.

A number of progressive measures have been taken by the government to overcome the root causes of discrimination. Government offices have been created, including the Vice-Ministry of Decolonization, as well as the National Committee against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination. The National Committee had its first ordinary session in October 2013. The departmental committees are essential for the implementation of the 17 different programmes that compose the current national strategy, with several activities undertaken during 2013. These included courses on decolonization for public servants, involving more than 600 participants during 2013. Training sessions were also provided to members of the judiciary and other authorities in response to long-standing criticisms of systematic racism within many public bodies. During the July 2013 'Plurinational Symposium for Decolonization and Depatriarchalization of the Justice System', a high-ranking official said that 'to move from a colonial [system of] justice to a plural one lies in including historically excluded peoples, making judicial processes more efficient, and generating norms that respect Bolivia's diverse cultural realities'.

The government has also been active in promoting positive representations of the indigenous population and their place in the country, particularly through education. This included, in 2013, the launching of an academic network of racism studies and publications on related topics, such as the liberation struggles of indigenous peoples during colonial rule and the Afro-Bolivian community. In May, 14,000 students participated in a 'Plurinational Day against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination', while in September on-the-spot assessments were conducted in hundreds of schools across the country to assess the practical implementation of anti-discrimination legislation. There were also a number of other events and activities recognizing the cultural and historical contribution of indigenous peoples and minorities, including the construction of monuments commemorating female and male anti-colonial leaders, a campaign to revive the traditional Andean 'Christmas' and a celebration of Afro-Bolivian music. While these activities have been launched through the initiative of the state, there has been a progressively stronger uptake from civil society and local communities.

These efforts have been underpinned by a number of anti-discrimination laws. In 2007, Bolivia became the first country to introduce the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into local law. The new Constitution, formally approved in 2009, provides for the development of a comprehensive legal framework. One of the most prominent laws is the 2010 Law against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination, also known as Law 045, which criminalizes a range of racist or discriminatory actions, including violent incitement and the dissemination of racist or discriminatory material through media and other means. This legal instrument was welcomed among indigenous communities and came after years of advocacy by NGOs and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. It has been publicly commended by UN representatives since its approval. Following its passing, Article 281 of the Bolivian Penal Code was also amended to include hate speech.

However, the country is still some distance from achieving its ambitious 2025 target of 'zero racism and discrimination'. Between January and October 2013, the Vice-Ministry of Decolonization accepted 135 complaints about racism or discrimination, though 22 were subsequently dismissed; 15 were based on cultural identity and 14 on geographical precedence. However, Law 045 has given greater visibility to these issues. While few complaints were registered before its passing, since then numbers have grown to an average of around 12 each month and the government has started to publish monthly reports. Nevertheless, despite giving greater visibility to these issues, no one has yet been convicted as a result of Law 045, even though hundreds of formal complaints have been lodged. Officials have argued that the problem resides not in the law itself but in deeper shortcomings within the justice system. A case in early 2014, when a passer-by who attacked and racially vilified a young journalist in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra was subsequently released without charge, was cited in an article by the Inter Press Service as an illustration of the law's lack of practical implementation.

At the same time, notwithstanding its limited effect so far, Law 045 has also attracted criticism for its inclusion of fines and prison sentences of up to five years for media and journalists charged with spreading or endorsing racist and discriminatory material. For instance, following their coverage of a speech by Morales in 2012, three media outlets were accused of inciting racism and discrimination in a move condemned by Article 19 as 'an illegitimate attempt to restrict freedom of expression'. Another journalist accused by authorities of disseminating racist material in late 2012, Marianela Montenegro, also claimed that the government was launching a politically motivated campaign against her.

Accusations of hate speech have also extended into the Bolivian political arena during the year, with the government accusing a leading opposition figure of discriminatory language in October after he called Morales a 'tenant in the presidential palace'. The Minister of Communication said that this expression 'denotes that the grandchildren of the Spanish conquerors have always considered indigenous peoples as tenants in their own land'. Incidents such as these remain highly divisive, suggesting that Bolivia's programme of 'decolonization' remains an ongoing process.

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