October 30, 2018

Entry and Exit Fees for Tourists to Bolivia


Bolivia has been charging tourists fees for entry and exit in to the country. Many tourists do not know they pay such fees because often such charges are hidden in the ticket prices. Bolivia is not alone charging such tourism fees in the region.

Departure fees

Bolivia charges tourists a 327 Bs fee per person when they leave the country by air. That is equivalent to around 47,40 US$, at current exchange rates. The fee is called Tax on Departures to the Exterior (ISAE, Impuesto a Salidas al Exterior) and was created by article 106 of Law 843. The fee is applicable to any country departure by air, of natural persons residing in or visiting Bolivia, with the exception of government officials, diplomats and their families and members of sport delegations that fulfill activities in official representation of the country. It is stipulated that the charge be included in the price of a ticket. In 2013, the ISAE was valued at 266 Bolivianos; in 2014, at 281 Bolivianos; in 2015, at 296 Bolivianos, and in 2016, at 314 Bolivianos, according to the Bolivian tax authority (Servicio de Impuestos Nacionales), SIN data. The revenues are supposed to go to the implementation of plans, programs and projects to promote Bolivian tourism.

The fee has been deemed by the national airline association (Asociacion de Aaerolineas, ALA), as one of the highest in the region and one which discourages travel to the country. ALA's general manager, Yanela Zárate, highlights the disadvantages by quoting the fees in other neighboring countries. She argues that the same charge in other countries does not exceed 35 US$. For example, in Peru it is 30.25 dollars, in Colombia 33 dollars if the stay is short and if it lasts for more than two months the rate reaches 66 dollars. In Venezuela it reaches 44 dollars. She also illustrates: "For example, a family of four who travels abroad ends up paying almost $ 200 and if a traveler must leave several times, he must pay the tax on each trip". Finally, she added the fee goes directly to the coffers of the General Treasury of the State and does not generate any return for tourism.

Entry fees

Since February 2017, Bolivia has been charging an entry fee of 100 bolivianos (about 14,50 US$ at today's rate) to tourists who enter Bolivian territory by air. The payment of 30 bolivianos (4 dollars) to tourists who arrive by land has been deferred, for operational reasons, until 2019, according to the provisions of the new norm and Deputy Minister of Tourism, Joaquín Rojas. The Law for the Creation of the Fund for Promotion, Promotion and Facilitation of Tourism and Special Contribution will allow financing "the elaboration and implementation of plans, programs and / or projects to promote Bolivia" abroad, he points out.

The tax to tourists arriving by air will be included in the plane ticket, said Rodas, adding that "we have given two years to implement (the charge) in the income by land." Diplomats and staff of foreign organizations, airline crews and children under two years of age are exempt from this payment.

The Government estimates that around 20 million bolivianos per year will be raised, which will be included in the Fund for the Promotion and Promotion of Tourism (FONTUR). The purpose is to finance the development and implementation of tourism plans, programs and projects in the national territory. Official sources assured that the tax will not affect the tourist flow and that the amount is low, compared to that imposed by countries such as Peru or Colombia.




Elections: Prediction Polls on Bolivia's Coming General Elections


This is a collection of election polls published on newspapers on the coming general elections in 2019.

Newspaper: Pagina Siete, Sunday, October 21, 2018
Link: https://www.paginasiete.bo/nacional/2018/10/21/mesa-tiene-33-en-intencion-de-voto-evo-morales-31-197603.html

October 01, 2018

The Verdict on the Causa Bolivia vs. Chile at the Hague


The decision on the lawsuit Bolivia started against Chile at the Hague, in order to oblige the latter to conduct negotiations on a sovereign sea access, has been issued. At three pm, the judges made public their statement whereby they rejected all of Bolivia's arguments. In consequence, there is no obligation for Chile to negotiate as Bolivia has argued.

The statement, which can be found here, outlines all of the proceedings, from start to end. In it, the court lists all of Bolivia's arguments as well as what Bolivia expected from the court, that is:

  1. Chile has the obligation to negotiate with Bolivia in order to reach an agreement granting Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean;
  2. Chile has breached the said obligation; and
  3. Chile must perform the said obligation in good faith, promptly, formally, within a reasonable time and effectively, to grant Bolivia a fully sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean.
The statement protocols Chile's expectations as well:
  1. The Republic of Chile respectfully requests the Court to dismiss all of theclaims of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.
An earlier post of mine explains a bit more what was this dispute about. You will find this post here.

This is a major blow for the Morales government, one which he took in person, because he was present during the reading of the verdict.

It is a major blow because Morales in person raised the expectations on a positive outcome. He more or less promised Bolivians the verdict would be positive and Bolivia would get its sea access.

Instead the judges dismiss the arguments and take the Chilean side. More on this later....

May 17, 2018

Online Tool to Check on Your Electricity Bill


The Bolivian agency in charge of controlling and administering the electricity sector AE has entered the e-government era. It published this website providing various services so users are able to do many things related to their electricity supply. 

To start of, they can find out where to go to complain or make use of services the company offers, such as making payments, establishing services, etc. Customers can follow up their complaints, and see in advance a schedule of oncoming reparations, outages, and so on. Finally, they can make use of a tool to calculate their monthly charges, as a way of controlling.

April 11, 2018

Oil Company Total's Projects in Bolivia


This post was taken from the Total website here. It shortly mentions the various business interests Total has in Bolivia. I thank Total for letting me place this here and point to the original through the link above.

Source: https://www.total.com/en/media/news/press-releases/total-lance-le-developpement-dincahuasi-en-bolivie

Paris, September 25, 2013 -

Total announces today the final investment decision for a first development phase of the Incahuasi gas and condensate field in Bolivia, following the successful drilling results of the ICS-2 exploration well.

Located on the Ipati Block 250 kilometers South West of Santa Cruz in the Andean foothills, the development, operated by Total, will involve 3 wells (one on the Aquio block and two on the Ipati block), a gas treatment plant with a capacity of 6.5 Mm3/d and associated export pipelines. First Gas, is expected in 2016, of which a large portion will be exported.

The ICS-2 well, drilled to a depth of 5,636 m, is the second successful exploration well on the Ipati Block. The results of two recent tests on this well proved a hydrocarbon column of around 1,100 meters in the Devonian Huamampampa fractured sandstones reservoir.

“The very positive results of the last well drilled on the Incahuasi field enabled us to launch a first development phase to help meet growing gas demand in the region,” said Ladislas Paszkiewicz, Total E&P Senior Vice President for the Americas. “We shall actively continue our exploration efforts in Bolivia to enable additional developments”.

Total plans several more exploration and appraisal wells on the Ipati and Aquio blocks to prove the significant additional potential of the Incahuasi field. Total also plans to commence exploration activities on the neighboring Azero block following the recent signature of an agreement with national energy company YPFB and Gazprom.

Total Exploration and Production in Bolivia

Present in Bolivia since 1996, TEPBo operates the Aquio and Ipati blocks with a 60% participating interest, in association with Tecpetrol de Bolivia (20%) and Gazprom (20%, pending final administrative approvals).

TEPBo also owns a 15% participating interest in the San Alberto and San Antonio blocks which supply natural gas mainly to Brazil, as well as a 41% participating interest in the Itaú field, put on stream in 2011 to supply gas to Argentina.

Company information:

Total has been operating in Bolivia since 1995 in two main areas: Exploration and production and marketing and services (lubricants and special fluids). For more info visit Total's Bolivia website.

Bolivia's Foreign Trade Report 2018


Trade in Bolivia - 2018

The Bolivian Institute of Foreign Trade (IBCE, for its Spanish name) has published its assessment of Bolivia's trade statistics based on the National Statistical Institute's numbers. Here is a run down of the most important aspects of this report.


The Export sector for Bolivia has experienced a turnaround in 2017. While for the period 2014-2016 Bolivian trade suffered a significant decline from 12.8 to 7.09 billion dollars, the estimated value for 2017 is expected to be an improvement to 7.8 billion dollars. The main explanation for this improvement (and for the previous decline) has not changed. The most important factor for such changes in the Bolivian case has been the economy’s dependence on the international oil price increase and decrease, which is coupled with the price of Bolivia’s most important export, natural gas.

This dependence can be clearly seen when we take a look at the above images which show the most important export sectors and the share of exports by what Bolivians call traditional and non-traditional exports. Traditional products are considered to be commodities, such as natural gas and its derivatives, minerals and oil and non-traditional are other products, such as agricultural and manufactured products. Traditional exports represented the largest share of exports with 82.09% compared to the non-traditional exports which represented 17.91%. Of the share of traditional exports, natural gas and minerals represented a little over 62%. The rest of the products Bolivia exported in 2017 were: soy cake, soy oil (refined and unrefined), Brazil nuts, jewelry, quinoa, bananas, ethyl alcohol, chia and leather.

If we look at a breakdown of exports per department, we find four departments, namely La Paz (14.74%), Santa Cruz (24.20%), Tarija (20.37) and Potosi (27.19%), which would represent the lion’s share of exports. Other departments, namely Beni (5.24%), Oruro (4.18%), Cochabamba (3.06%), Chuquisaca (0.69%) and Pando (0.33%) represent a small part of exports. However, this picture is somewhat distracting and hides some important considerations. The shares include the export of traditional products without which the shares of Tarija and Potosi would not be that large. In addition, because the share of natural gas exports has declined in the last years, it has signified an increase in the share of Potosi’s exports. At the same time, Cochabamba, even though it does not seem like from this image, is the third most important city in the country in terms of production of non-traditional products such as shoes, agricultural products, canned food, and chemical products.

In terms of which countries are the most important buyers of Bolivian products, Brazil and Argentina hold the first and second places. Once again, the role of traditional products is important in this placing, because these two countries import natural gas from Bolivia and represent 34.11% of all the other importing countries. The image above shows that Bolivia does have a diverse commercial relationship with other countries. The list includes South Korea, the United States, Japan, India, China, Colombia, Peru, United Arab Emirates and other countries with minor interest such as Germany, France, Netherlands and the UK, for example. While most agricultural products tend to go to countries in the region, the US and some Asian countries tend to buy minerals, soy products and some other products. West European countries have concentrated on the purchase of quinoa and chia seeds.


In terms of imports to Bolivia, the country has made up in 2017 the small decline in recent years. The country has been able to keep demand up and, as such, counterbalance the decline in world oil prices with a strong domestic demand. This has been possible due to the central role the government plays in the economy today. The government has been investing in the creation of many sorts of industrial ventures from computers to milk and thus giving impulses to the economy. At the same time, the construction sector has been one of the most dynamic sectors in the last decade.

Bolivia has been demanding and importing capital and transport goods as well as their parts (39.93%), and other industrial machinery (29.75%). It has also imported consumer goods (13.10%), food and beverages (7.30%) as well as lubricants and gasoline (9.88%).

The list of countries from which these products come include China, Brazil, Argentina, US, Peru, Chile, Japan, Mexico, Colombia, and Germany. It is important to highlight that China has become the most important country from which Bolivia buys products such as clothing, machinery, transport products and their parts, mobile phones, and some chemical products.

The lion’s share of imports go to Santa Cruz (42.48%), which has become the most economically dynamic department in Bolivia. La Paz, which used to be in first place, comes now in second with 24.86% of share of imports, while Oruro (15.78%), Cochabamba (7.72%) and Tarija (6.28%) come in distant third. La Paz has been constructing a public transportation system based on cable cars and normal buses. It is precisely these types of products that the department has been importing. Through Oruro enter the country diesel and other types of refined gasoline and many transport products which are then distributed to other parts of the country. The department’s main economic activity is mining. Throughout the country the government has been constructing geothermal stations to produce electricity. For those types of investments the country has been importing transport goods, engines and metal parts. Lastly, but importantly, the country has also been importing flour, which shows the various price and production and export controls the government has been implementing to guarantee what it calls fair or solidarity prices of foods has not been working. One of the worst consequences of all these measures (principally of subsidies) has been the increase in contraband.


Bolivia has run a trade deficit for 2017. On the one side, this is due to the less than optimal developments in the international prices for Bolivia's most important export product, natural gas. The country has experienced better times. On the other side, the country has been accumulating capital goods, which in terms of future economic development is not a bad investment. It will all depend on how are these goods being used. It will all depend on whether the government's plans of industrializing the country are realized or not.

Democracy in the World: Freedom House on Bolivia and the World


Freedom House's Democracy in the World interactive map 2018 (freedomhouse.org)

Here is a post I do almost every year. I report/monitor the yearly publication of Freedom House's Democracy in the World and cut and paste its findings. This year's report is particularly interesting because its title is Democracy in Crisis and its key findings are:

  • Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—came under attack around the world.
  • Seventy-one countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 registering gains. This marked the 12th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.
  • The United States retreated from its traditional role as both a champion and an exemplar of democracy amid an accelerating decline in American political rights and civil liberties.
  • Over the period since the 12-year global slide began in 2006, 113 countries have seen a net decline, and only 62 have experienced a net improvement.
The report documents the sustained decline in democractic freedoms around the world. Now Bolivia has been classified as a partly free democracy since years and its position has not changed this year. While the report is not yet available, the direction in which the country is headed in FH's score is a matter of concern. The major reason this year for this downtrend is because:
Bolivia received a downward trend arrow due to a constitutional court ruling that abolished term limits and paved the way for President Evo Morales to run for a fourth term in 2019.
 Happy readings!

March 23, 2018

Bolivia's Dispute with Chile at the Hague


The Bolivia-Chile relations have been dominated by one issue, the loss of sea access for Bolivia as a result of the pacific war of 1879 between the two countries. Ever since, Bolivia has been claiming injustice to the world for, what the country calls, an illegal usurpation of territory. To this day, Bolivia and Chile do not have diplomatic relations and do not abandon controversy and confrontation instead of talking to one another.

The latest chapter in this long-standing dispute is evolving this week, from the 19th to the 23rd, in the International Court of Justice at the Hague, Netherlands. On Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th, Bolivia had the opportunity to present its last oral arguments in the process initiated by this country against Chile back in 2013. On Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd, Chile presented its rebuttal.

What is the problem?

The core of the problem is the loss for Bolivia of sea access, which was the result of losing the war of the pacific (1879 to 1883) to Chile. While both countries have somewhat different versions of what started the war, it is possible to determine that the dispute was over taxes imposed by the Bolivian government to Chilean mines which were operating at the time in what was Bolivian-controlled territory.

The Chilean government saw this move counterproductive, and aided by foreign interests, namely by the British empire, it decided to intervene and as such declare war on Bolivia and Peru.

The war lasted some four years. Chile managed to march all the way into Lima and, in the process take control of the Bolivian Litoral department. Consequently, Bolivia formally lost control of its territory through the so called Treaty of Peace and Amity of 1904. This settled the dispute and laid down the new relations between the two countries. Among the conditions, Chile accepted to allow free access to commerce for Bolivian products in perpetuity. 

What is going on in the Hague?

In 2013, Bolivia filed a lawsuit against Chile at the ICJ. After a brief counter suit by Chile asking the court to clarify its jurisdiction, the court accepted the case and ruled it was within its jurisdiction.

Since then, both Bolivia and Chile have presented their cases in oral and written forms. This time around, between the 19th and the 23rd of March, both countries have their last opportunity to present their arguments in oral form. Bolivia presented its arguments on the 19th and the 20th and Chile presented its arguments on the 22nd and 23rd of March. These will be the last chance for both countries as a final decision is expected in the next months.

The arguments

Bolivia has been claiming its landlocked status has been a major factor against its economic development. The team of lawyers have made the argument that Chile, by its own conduct on the issue, has establish a record of willingness to addressing the Bolivian claim. This actions, if interpreted by the UN charter, establish legal grounds binding Chile to negotiate a solution for the Bolivian problem. In essence, Bolivia does not dispute the standing of the 1904 peace treaty but it asserts that Chile, through its conduct and actions, accepts the Bolivian issue is not resolved. Therefore, Bolivia asks the court to oblige Chile to enter negotiations in good faith with Bolivia to address its landlocked status.

Chile's main argument counters that Bolivia, with this course of action, pretends to impose a precondition for the negotiations it wants with Chile. It argues further, Bolivia is not simply seeking good-faith negotiations but rather, it is demanding a pre-commitment from Chile to an outcome of sovereign access.

The (possible) outcome

What is the most likely outcome to a dispute such as this? It is reasonable to expect the court will want to do justice to both sides. On the one side, it will want to move towards the Bolivian argument which reasonably asks for the opportunity to keep talking (even negotiating). At the same time, the court is likely to side with Chile at the moment of advising the two sides that no country is legally obliged to enter negotiations or talks expecting to cede territory to another country. The decision is most likely to be: yes both countries have to talk with one another, however it cannot be expected from Chile to enter such talks accepting to negotiate the terms for loss of sovereignty of its own territory.




January 24, 2018

New Cabinet 2018


Only two changes in Evo Morales' new cabinet. Alfredo Rada, who prviously was Minister of Government and Viceminister for Social Movements Coordination, was sworn now as Minister of the Presidency. In addition, Javier Zavaleta, former La Paz deputy for MSM, was sworn as Minister for Defense. The rest of ministers were ratified. 

There were many critical voices within MAS calling for the president to replace some ministers, such as the Health Minister and Minister for Culture, but it seems the president did think they were doing a good job.

Below, you will see a list of the new cabinet taken from the news agency Erbol.


January 17, 2018

Foreign Policy: The US's Approach to Latin America


Many authors have engaged the title of this post mainly to analyze why is the US' policy towards Latin America not working. While critical analysis is a desirable thing to do in order to, among other things, go forward or better (say a policy), in this topic many of the analyses seem verging on the obliviousness to real events. For that reason, an equal number of scholars have proposed new ways on which the formulation of such policy should be anchored on. This post is one more attempt at revising as well as analyzing US foreign policy towards Latin America and proposing a "new" approach, which, in my opinion, is necessary already.

Scholars of foreign policy or international relations like to start revisiting the Monroe Doctrine when thinking about US policy towards its more southern neighbors. For it was in 1823, as President James Monroe gave his annual state of the union speech that he formulated what later would become a fundamental piece of US foreign policy and relations. So fundamental, that even President Reagan referred to it during his presidency and the presidents thereafter did not singnificantly change.

The doctrine, written by Quincy Adams and influenced by Hamilton and others, stated that any attempt at re-colonize the newly independent countries in the Americas by European powers would be seen as a threat to the US. At the same time, the US would seek not to interfere with the remaining European colonies.

The doctrine was so fundamental because it did not only established an approach to address issues involving the Americas but also helped establish a sphere of influence beyond the borders of the United States. It recognized that the security of the US was secured when the borders of those other countries were also secure.

Since the end of the Cold War, the US government has been applying more or less the same approach in dealing with its southern neighbors. This approach involves the promotion of liberal democracy and the establishment of benefitious routes for trade. In the 1960s and 1970s and especially the 1980s, the issue of drug trafficking became one more pillar of that policy. While later on the issues of development and military cooperation also entered the formula. One issue left outside, but which has become fundamental has been the issue of migration south to north.

So every time a new president takes the oath to office in the US, latin americanists, policy analysts and the politically interested asked themselves how will the US policy towards Latin America look like during the next four years. An important question has been: does the US have a sufficiently coherent and adequately modern policy that guides its relationship with Latin America?

The short answer can be, yes, the US has had and still has one of the most coherent approaches towards the region. In fact, it is so coherent that it has not significantly changed since many decades, if not since Monroe. What has not happened is it has not been appropriately conditioned to the most recent developments in the whole region, not only within the US but also in Latin America.

How should this new approach look like?

First, the US should realize once and for all, the Latin American region has been living democracy since at least three decades. It is not the region anymore where the specter of communism was waiting to charge and take over; nor it is the region where a regime change meant a coup d'etat and military dictators were taking the reigns of government thinking they were the most fit to lead a nation.

Second, the US should think twice about continuing treating Latin America as its sphere of influence or its back yard. It should instead think of the region as its neighborhood where many countries with different cultures, ways of life and interests live.

Third, the US should think twice about concentrating heavily on the war on drugs when it deals with Latin America. I think I do not need to remind us that concentrating on one or few issues not only reduces alternatives but tends to simplify what otherwise would be a complex matter. Instead it should approach the region on the basis of a complex relationship with many sides, one of them being the war on drugs. Other important issues of this new era would be migration, financial integration, renewable energy, traditional energy, security, environment, etc.

Fourth, the US should realize that, while the focus on trade is the right thing to do, the emphasis on getting the best deal which might largely benefit one side is not beneficial. Instead, the US should realize that it is only to its benefit that the other side also benefits, and generousely. The larger benefit for the US would be strengthening a potential market of some 500 million people which might end up consuming many US products.

Fifth, the US should stop concentrating on the largest markets such as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. Instead, it should also work on strenthening smaller countries such as Ecuador, Peru or Uruguay or Bolivia, for that matter. In fact, it should try to bring to its side as many countries as possible.

Finally, the US should stop treating the countries in Latin America as if they were kids, even if many times they might behave like one. Instead, it should start treating these countries as partners, looking at them eye-to-eye, giving them the respect they are looking for around the world.