Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
BOLIVIAA constitutional, multiparty democracy with an elected president and bicameral legislature, Bolivia has separate executive, legislative, and judicial branches with an attorney general independent of all three. The judiciary, while independent, is corrupt and inefficient. The executive and legislative branches share these defects to some extent. Implementation of the 1994 constitutional amendments to reform the political and judicial systems continued and was partially completed by the end of 1997. The National Police have primary responsibility for internal security, but military forces can be called upon for help in critical situations. A special antinarcotics force (FELCN), including the Mobile Rural Patrol Unit (UMOPAR), is dedicated to antinarcotics enforcement. Civilian authorities maintain effective control of the security forces, but some members of these forces committed human rights abuses. Bolivia has extensive poverty, and many citizens lack access to such basic services as potable water, sewage, electricity and primary health care. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is about $930. The country is rich in minerals and hydrocarbons, and extensive investments in petroleum deposits in the eastern part of the country are expected to form a basis for strong GDP growth in the future. Most workers engage in traditional agriculture, however, and many citizens will remain barely linked to the cash economy. The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, legal and institutional deficiencies prevented their full protection. The most pervasive human rights abuse continued to be prolonged incarceration of detainees due to antiquated procedures, and inefficiency and corruption in the judicial system. There were credible reports of abuses by police, including use of excessive force, petty theft, extortion, and improper arrests. Human rights groups criticized the FELCN and the UMOPAR for alleged abuses against coca growers and peasants in the Chapare region. An investigation by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that security forces committed excesses resulting in the deaths of nine civilians in December 1996 and that the Government did not act to identify and punish those responsible. Investigations of alleged official abuses were slow. Other problems include harsh prison conditions, discrimination against and abuse of women and indigenous people, abuse of children, and inhuman working conditions in the mining industry.