November 23, 2016

Bolivia's Democratic Evolution


I might as well publish this other article which was also to be published in the failed Sage encyclopedia of democracy and democratization. Once again, enjoy.


Bolivia’s democratic evolution


Over the last 33 years Bolivia’s democratic process developed through three distinguishable periods. An initial period (from 1982 to 2000) was marked by the transition from a military dictatorship to a representative democracy, and the subsequent effort to consolidate the democratic process. A second period (from 2000 to 2005) was dominated by a loss of political legitimacy and deep social crisis, which, in spite of the efforts to consolidate the democratic process, placed the survival of democracy into serious question. The third period (from 2006 on) was marked by the emergence of Evo Morales, who, together with the country’s indigenous political forces managed to take control of power with a political alliance denominated Movement Toward Socialism. This entry aims to outline the development of the democratic process in Bolivia from the return of democracy to current times.

Re-democratization and Democratic Deepening

Bolivia’s transition to democracy began in October 1982 after a long spell of military dictatorships. This period was marked by a deep economic and social crisis, the implementation of neoliberal policies in response to that crisis and the efforts of subsequent governments to consolidate the democratic process. In response of the crisis, the Victor Paz government took the first steps towards its abatement by introducing neoliberal policies such as: liberalization of the economy, reduction of public expenditures, increase of government revenues and reduce the role of the state in the economy. While these measures promptly replaced the deep economic uncertainty with a new sense of macro-economic stability, over the rest of the period, the measures had negative social effects in the form of massive unemployment and low economic growth. Once the worst of the crisis was surmounted, the subsequent governments sought to consolidate the economic process. One first factor was the application of a coalition-building mechanism already present in the Constitutions known as Accorded Democracy, which allowed the establishment of arguably one of the most institutionally and procedurally stable periods for the Bolivian democratic process. Accorded Democracy greatly reduced the risk of congressional deadlock by promoting the building of majority governments. Another factor was the implementation of a decentralization program in 1994 under the label of popular participation, which sought the official recognition of indigenous and civil society organizations as legitimate political entities, the incorporation of such organizations in the political and economic process, the introduction and promotion of participative democracy, the guarantee for equality, and the perfecting of the representative democratic system. With this law, the government achieved the deepening of the democratic process by guaranteeing the involvement of citizens in the political process.

Political and Social Crisis

While the re-democratization process had been relatively successful from the institutional and procedural points of view, the efforts to consolidate the democratic process were deficient. On the back of citizen frustration over democracy’s unfulfilled expectations, the political system lost legitimacy through: first, the implementation of neoliberal policies, of which the most damaging was privatization. The government’s efforts to privatize the many state industries resulted in massive unemployment; and second, the public and indiscreet manner in which political actors practiced Accorded Democracy, which often concentrated on the distribution of public posts rather than the formulation of policy.

The period was marked by citizen frustration and it manifested itself in the form of massive and confrontational protests, road blocks and marches, most of which made uncompromising demands to the government while expecting results. The most significant protest episodes in this period were: the April 2000 successful reversal of the water supply system privatization in the country’s third largest city, Cochabamba; the episodes on February and October 2003 when there were violent confrontations between demonstrators, military and police forces where dozens of demonstrators fell victim of police repression; the times protests forced, and not exactly in a constitutional manner, the forced removal of two presidents: Gonzalo Sanchez and Carlos Mesa; and the largely irregular election of Eduardo Rodriguez, the third candidate in the line of succession. The former President of the Supreme Court and newly elected President Eduardo Rodriguez became president on June 2005 with the only task of organizing the next general elections.

Post-neoliberal era

The post-neoliberal era began with the arrival of Evo Morales in January 2006 to the government. His rise has been of historical significance for the country because he is the first president with indigenous background elected through popular vote. While his government has continued the economic progress began in prior governments, it has also placed emphasis on the inclusion of indigenous peoples in the political process, consolidating the government’s central role in the economy and relying on a strong anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberal discourse to maintain its support. At the same time, Evo Morales has been criticized for attempting to restrict certain rights and liberties and for using the law in his favor to solidify his position of power in government.

During the two terms Evo Morales and the MAS have been in government they have been able to raise revenues by nationalizing Bolivia’s natural resource industries. In fact, the export of natural gas to Brazil and Argentina has become the single most significant source of revenue for the country. In addition, the government introduced financial transfers to incentivize children to stay in school and pregnant women to have medical check-ups before and after birth. It also introduced a minimal retirement benefit for seniors. These programs have lifted many people out of indigent poverty. On the other hand, critics have keenly observed Morales’ repeated disregard for the country’s new constitutional order and of the rule of law. He has been criticized for the manner in which he and his government have used the almost absolute majority in Congress to pass laws virtually without debate or opposition; to gain control of important public offices by removing opposition leaders with the use of recently passed legislation; and to appoint government-friendly justices. In addition, he has also been criticized for his efforts to silence criticism from the media by invoking recently passed legislation which punishes any statement that can be interpreted as racially motivated.

On October 2014 Evo Morales won a third consecutive presidential term with enough support to avoid a second round of elections. This time around, one important objective is to solidify the central role the government plays in the economy by creating national industries capable of diversifying the country’s production base. At the same time, the government plans to guarantee food security by playing a role in the production and distribution of important foods as well as assuring the price is accessible for all.

Dr. Miguel A. Buitrago

See also: Stages of Democratization; Political Realignment; Protest Movements; Social Movements; Ethnic Mobilization.

Further readings

Farthing, Linda and Benjamin Kohl. Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2014.

Creabtree, John and Ann Chaplin. Bolivia: Processes of Change. London and New York: Zed books, 2013.

Peñaranda, Raul, et. al. Treinta Años de Democracia en Bolivia: Repaso Multidisciplinario a un Proceso Apasionante (1982 – 2012). La Paz: Pagina Siete, 2012.

Dargatz, Anja and Moira Zuazo, eds. Democracias en Transformacion: Que hay de nuevo en los nuevos estados Andinos? La Paz: Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, 2012.

Pearce, Adrian. Evo Morales and the Movimiento al Socialismo in Bolivia: the first term in conttext (2005 – 2009). London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2011.

Cameron, Maxwell and J. P. Luna, eds. Democracias en la Region Andina. Lima: IEP, 2010.

Dunkerley, James. Bolivia: Revolution and the Power of History in the Present. London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2007.

Kohl, Benjamin and Linda Farthing. Impasse in Bolivia: neoliberal hegemony and popular resistance. London and New York: Zed Books, 2006.

November 21, 2016

Conceptual Context to Bolivia's Democratic Process: Waves of Democracy


This piece should have been published in a Routledge-sponsored "encyclopedia of democracy and democratization". But since the publication fell off the ground (I do not know why) and I had already written the article on waves of democracy, I am publishing it here. Enjoy! Please, do not forget to cite me.


Waves of democracy


Is democratization an irreversible, long-term, global trend? Is democracy a form of government that, under certain conditions and contexts, alternates with various forms of authoritarian rule over a long-term? These are the most meaningful questions the notion of waves of democracy addresses at its most fundamental level. Embedded within the democratization field of studies, the concept of waves of democracy (also referred to as waves of democratization or even as democratization waves) refers to the increasing propensity of non-democratic governments to transition towards democratic systems of governments over, more or less, distinctive periods of time. This observation was made by political scientist Samuel Huntington who coined and developed the concept. He first wrote about waves of democracy in a 1991 article published in the Journal of Democracy. He later expanded the concept in a seminal book entitled The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, published the same year.

Remarkably distinctive, the concept of democratic waves has been very useful to better understand regime transitions and, in a more indirect manner, the dynamics of larger issues such democratization processes, and ultimately, the application, endurance and stability of democracy as a regime system. In order the conceptually frame his analysis, Samuel Huntington took a chronological approach to the analysis of regime changes over a long period of time. This approach made it possible to shed light on the pattern of development, i.e. waves, through which this process could be better understood. In addition, it must be highlighted that the main focus of analysis were the so called third wave democratization processes. Samuel Huntington’s main conclusion drawn from his analysis has been to recognize that most probably, not one, not two, but many factors contribute to the democratization of countries; more likely, in a simultaneously and/or often contradictory manner. That is, for example, transition explanations for the first two waves covering from the early 1800s to the post-WWII period tended to concentrate on the role of factors such as economic development, cultural traits, decolonization and prior experience with such a government. Alternatively, the explaining factors concerning the transitions during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, tended to concentrate on the role of legitimacy problems of authoritarian systems, unprecedented global economic growth, changes in the Catholic Church’s doctrine against authoritarianism, changes in the foreign policies of international actors, and the enhancing of international communication which contributed to the snowballing effect.

This entry aims at explaining the nature and meaning of the concept of waves of democracy by, first and foremost, addressing the question: what is it meant by democracy? In second place, the entry presents the development of the term, to thirdly, present the more contemporary debate.

What is it meant by Democracy?

In order to delve into the waves of democracy subject it is necessary to understand first what type of democracy we are dealing with when we speak of ‘democracy’ in this context. To be able to follow the development of the democratic waves over time, Samuel Huntington used a contextualized definition of democracy. In that manner, in order to categorize democracies during the first wave, for example, the definition of democracy focused on two rather constraining requirements from today's point of view but adequate at the time. In the context of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a country that implemented male universal vote and chose its heads of states in a more or less competitive elections, was considered democratic. In a more modern context, this type of democracy can be understood as electoral democracy. However, the conception of democracy has evolved as has the practice of democracy. For that reason, in more recent times, both, academics as well as practitioners, starting with Samuel Huntington, have had liberal democracy in mind when speaking about the democratization of a country. There may well be many reasons for that, among them that the debate has been dominated by English speaking scholars who live in the United States of America or the fact that for many who dedicate their work to measuring the degree of democracy in a country have tended to have liberal democracy as a model of an ideal system of government or, not least, the fact that the American liberal democracy has become a model due to its resilience and stability since its inception.

As Samuel Huntington analyzed democratization processes in the twentieth century, he had liberal democracy in his mind when he thought of democratization. Liberal democracy has been defined as a type of democracy where democratic as well as liberal values come together. It includes the idea of free, fair, competitive and frequent elections; that political representatives get elected through an electoral process; that those results are respected by everyone with the full knowledge they are not permanent; the existence of political and civic pluralism; that people can express and associate themselves freely; that the rule of law guarantees equality and fairness; that people have free access to alternative forms of information; and that people can take part freely in the political process.

However, some authors criticize this assumption. For some scholars Samuel Huntington’s definition to democracy is not explicit enough, giving way to classify some countries as democracy which otherwise defined would not be considered as such. For other critics the definition is too narrow. They argue that it should be more inclusive of democratic as well as semi-democratic patterns. On the contrary, this last criticism often opens indeed the way for some countries with semi-democratic systems or even with apparent democratic systems to be defined as democracies.

Waves of democracy

The concept of waves of democracy is understood as the process through which groups of transitions from authoritarian to democratic regimes take place within a specified period of time. Within each wave, there is an initial period where an increasing number of transitions towards democratic systems of government take place reaching a maximum after some time. Once that peak is reached, the direction of transition reverses and a smaller number of those transitions revert towards authoritarian or non-democratic regimes. Samuel Huntington observed three waves of democracy in world history. The first wave took place between the American and French revolutions in the last quarter of the XIX century and the first decades of the XX century. The second wave took place in the post WWII period and the third wave of democratization began in 1974 with the Portuguese return to democracy, with no end in sight.

The first wave of democratization

The first wave of democratization took place between the years 1828 and 1926. Rooted in the American and French revolutions, the first wave took roughly one hundred years. The most active time was however the time after the collapse of the Habsburg, Hohenzollern and the Romanov empires. During this time somewhere in the order of thirty countries established some type of democratic institutions in their systems. Subsequently, the first reverse wave took place from 1922 to 1942. Notable was, the reversal occurring in the nations which had less experience with democracy and those new nations which emerged after World War II. Notable was also that almost none of the nations with long-term democratic experience had experienced reversal. The reasons for the reversals have been traced to the great depression, the inexperience with democracy of newly created nations, and the emergence of communist, fascist and military nationalist ideologies.

Second wave of democratization

The second waves of democratization, and the shortest of them all, took place from 1943 to 1962. This wave began in the aftermath of World War II and was, to some extent, reinforced by the beginning of the decolonization process. A counter balancing force, however, was the expansion of communism in the context of the Cold War.  All in all, around forty countries became democracies in this period. The second reverse wave happened between 1958 and 1975. By all accounts, this reversal period was the most significant. Not only because from thirty democracies twenty two had reversed to some type of authoritarian regime, but also because the decolonization process gave way to many new independent nations which turned authoritarian right away and also because this reversal had included some nations which had had experience with democracy for the best part of a quarter of a century.

Third wave of democratization

The third wave of democratization began in 1974 in Portugal. In contrast to the previous reversal, this rise in the number of democracies by a number of thirty five countries was impressive. Not only did this wave reach parts of Southern Europe, Latin America and Asia during the 1970s, where there had been prior experience with it, but endured throughout the 1980s and some part of the 1990s reaching Eastern Europe and some parts of Africa and the Middle East where democracy for the most part was a relatively new experience. The third wave is seen as a truly global event.

Debating about the waves

The overarching conceptual category framing the debate about democratic waves is regime change. Within this debate, regime change or transition may refer to a change from authoritarian to a democratic regime, from a democratic to an authoritarian regime or even to a change from an authoritarian to another authoritarian regime. The focus here is on the transition of the particular regime, without any specific direction. However, the debate over waves of democracy has a distinct direction which denotes a transition from a non-democratic towards a democratic regime. In this debate, which has generated a vast amount of literature, the questions have concentrated on the existence of waves and reverse waves, wave patterns, on whether these waves have happened in distinguishable periods, on whether there were only three distinct waves, and on whether the third wave is still happening or is it over or the waves in general are over.

The existence of waves

This part of the debate focuses on whether the waves of democracy were indeed waves. While the original argument makes use of the concept of waves to characterize the increase in regime transformations from non-democratic to democratic systems and the subsequent reversal of these transformations in a given time, Samuel Huntington warned that history was messy and not unidirectional and therefore it could not be expected that these historical events would fit a neat pattern as the one the idea of waves portraits. Nevertheless, he argued further, the conceptualization of waves of democracy was useful to understand the phenomenon.

In contrast, for many critics, the idea of wave patterns was difficult to argue, if not impossible. A group of scholars argued the different regime transformation patterns in question did not reflect waves precisely because these events did not fit neatly into the pattern of a wave. Instead, these processes could be better understood by looking for regional patterns, e.g. Western Europe, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Maghreb. This approach takes into account the structural, socio-economic, cultural and contextual differences in each region. Moreover, for a number of scholars the manner in which Samuel Huntington defined waves using the percentage of democracies in the world at some point in time was problematic. Had he instead focused on regime transitions rather than the number of democracies he would have found no evidence for waves. Similarly, other critics find no evidence for reverse waves, which supports the contention of no waves.

Other critics, while accepting the idea of waves, criticized the manner in which waves themselves were placed in time and the number of waves that took place. Contrasting to what Samuel Huntington proposed, scholars have pointed out that the first wave was really two distinct ones. One involved the European-settled countries which had already managed to establish certain freedoms and rule of law and that over this period moved towards an expanded understanding of democracy by extending voting rights. The second cluster was made up of countries which in the aftermath of WWI became democratic because they lost the war. Additionally, the second Huntington wave could be divided into three waves. One made up of countries defeated in WWII, a second wave made up with countries born out of decolonization, and a third cluster included coincidences, mainly in Latin America. Lastly, during the so called third wave, two clusters could be distinguished. One was the wave of democratization that swept Southern Europe and Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s. The second cluster had to do with the disintegration of the USSR.

Furthermore, other scholars argue a fourth wave is under way. With this scholars refer to the events beginning in 2011 known as the Arab Spring, albeit this wave having not produced as many stable democracies as one might expect in a wave. The argument highlights the differences in types of regimes and the time in which these events took place. In addition, other arguments have been proposed following this logic which introduces further waves at distinct points in time. This debate, to this day, has not been resolved, and it will continue until a clear pattern of reversals can be observed which would signal the clear end of the third wave of democratization.

Why do waves happen? External and internal factors

Another part of the debate concentrates on the factors that trigger waves. Based on Samuel Huntington’s argument, scholars have been able to identify internal and external factors playing a role in the transition process for an authoritarian regime to turn democratic. By the same token, scholars, by observing the transitions from democratic regimes towards authoritarianism or other non-democratic systems have also been able to discern relevant factors. The relevance of such factors and their contribution towards the establishment or reversal of democracy is what largely makes up the content of the current debate in this field.

Samuel Huntington proposed four ways in which waves happened. He first pointed to factors that could evolve parallel to each other, such as socio-economic developments. Second, he argued that many times there is an agreement among political actors across societies that institutional reforms are needed as solution to a particular situation. Third, he argued there were spill-over effects of democratization from one country to another. These could be elite-led or opposition-led. Finally, he argued that there could be one significant factor happening, mainly external - changing attitude of a great power or wars, etc.

Arguments highlighting internal factors tend to explain the first and third waves in the following manner. The first wave transitions before WWI signified a change to democracy from oligarchies by the extension of political rights such as universal vote and were primarily affected by internal factors. The third wave transitions were relatively quick and affected largely by internal factors and they were from an authoritarian to a democratic regime pushed by popular demand. Those scholars who tend to emphasize external factors explain the second wave thus. The transitions after WWI and the ones after WWII were affected mostly by external factors such as the aftermath of the two wars, the end of the major empires and the efforts to decolonize.

More often than none, however, there are explanations that combine both external and internal factors contributing to a democratization wave. Most of those arguments support Samuel Huntington’s proposition that regime changes do occur in waves, in particular regions and in particular times. For example, external factors simultaneously impact the systems of multiple countries, whereby the system in each particular country finds itself in an unstable period being affected by particular internal factors. Particularly susceptible are the countries where the institutional arrangements are not solid and the influences of neighboring countries are significant as are any external shocks to the interstate system. These, combined with the slow but certain impact of economic development, are the causes for waves.

Is the Third Wave Over?

Indeed, it is precisely the definition of this wave that triggered the most significant and enduring debate. The wave had been defined as beginning in 1974 and was literally left with no recognizable end. However, in most recent times, many scholars have argued the third wave did come to an end, while others argue it continues but in a different quality. Marc Plattner has suggested the waves are over. Primarily because within the pool of countries, the ones more apt for democracy have already transitioned while those remaining are less prone to democracy. Also, the attractiveness of the world's leading democracies has been declining and their institutions have been functioning poorly, therefore the attractiveness of democracy has diminished. In addition, foreign policies and supporting actions for democracy have been discredited. Finally, the influence and assertiveness of authoritarian regimes has been increasing. Moreover, many scholars have even go as far as recognizing a reverse wave, especially in the Latin American region, which would definitely bring the third wave to an end.

Other scholars argue the third wave has not come to an end but it is stagnating. They point out at the vast literature showing empirical evidence that very few democratization processes are being started. Finally, other scholars characterize the third wave as continuing to progress but in a different quality. With that is meant the various deepening or consolidation processes having been started around the world.

Dr. Miguel A. Buitrago

See also: Democratic Process; Stages of Democratization; Liberal Democracy; Regime Type; South American Transitions to Democracy; South Asian Transitions to Democracy

Further readings

Huntington, Samuel P. The Third Wave: democratization in the late twentieth century. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Huntington, Samuel P. “Democracy’s Third Wave”. Journal of Democracy, 2, 2, pgs. 12 – 24, 1991.

Plattner, Marc. “The end of the transition era?”. Journal of Democracy, 25, 3, pgs. 5 – 16, 2014.

Moeller, Jurgen and Sven-Erik Skanning. “The Third Wave: Inside the Numbers”. Journal of Democracy, 24, 4, 2013.

Moeller, Jurgen and Sven-Erik Skanning. Democracy and Democratization in Comparative Perspective: Conceptions, Conjunctures, Causes and Consequences. London: Routledge, 2013.

Perez-Liñan, Anibal and Scott Mainwaring. “Hegemony or Contagion? International Factors and Democratization in Latin America, 1945 – 2005”. Paper prepared for the FLACSO-ISA Joint International Conference in Buenos Aires, July 23 – 25, 2014.

Doorenspleet, Renske. “Reassessing the three Waves of Democratization”. World Politics, 52, 3, 2000.

Dahl, Marianne, Scott Gates, Havard Hegre, and Havard Strand. “Why Waves? Global Patterns of Democratization, 1820 – 2008”. Accessed on December 24, 2014.

November 17, 2016

Referendum November 2016: Departments and Municipalities "constitutions"


Source: Bolivian Electoral Organ (

On Sunday, November 20, 2016 Bolivia will for a second time in one year go back to the ballot boxes to cast votes for yet another approval referendum (plebiscite). This time around the people will be asked to approve or reject the regional or local constitutions, which have been in formulation since the process to obtain autonomy began in 2010.

Fifteen "territorial entities", as the different governmental levels are known in Bolivia, will be asking their inhabitants whether the regional and local constitutions they have written are good to go or not.

A breakdown of these looks as follows:

So called Organic Charters, which are the fundamental laws for municipalities, will be voted on in the municipalities of Viacha (La Paz); Totora, Arque, Vinto (Cochabamba); Sucre (Chuquisaca) and El Torno, El Puente, Buena Vista, Yapacaní and Cuatro Cañadas (Santa Cruz).

In Uru Chipaya (Oruro), Mojocoya (Chuquisaca) and Raqaypampa (Cochabamba) the vote will be over the so called originary/campesino/indigenous statutes, which would be the equivalent of constitutions for these type of territorial autonomy. In similar terms, Gran Chaco (Tarija) will be submitting its statute for approval. This would be a so called regional autonomy. Finally, the Gutiérrez municipality (Santa Cruz) will be asking its inhabitants whether they want to go down the road of an indigenous/origins/campesino autonomy.

The Bolivia autonomic process

The process of obtaining autonomy in Bolivia has been complicated. According to the law, there are four ways in which territorial entities can become autonomous: Departmental, Municipal, Regional and indigenous/originary/campesino.

Departmental autonomy is the equivalent to a state government in the US or a laender in Germany. Many times these are also labeled regions, but in Bolivia this distinctions has been important because of this reason. Municipal autonomy is just that, municipalities. One has however to remember that a municipality can cover an entire large city or a territory larger that the city. That depends on the number of inhabitants in that municipality. Regional autonomy, instead, are particular regions within a departamento. They cannot go over its boundaries. In Bolivia, the Chaco region is a particularly distinct region, hence its seeking autonomy. In contrast to the latter types of territorial autonomy, the indigenous/originary/campesino have been difficult to define. In the law they are not defined. After all, how to define territory on ethnic or identity basis without crossing many artificially created territorial units such as states or municipalities? However, in the particular case of Bolivia, these territories have come to be defined as the equivalent to municipalities. The difference is on the attributions and responsibilities each form has. To cut a long explanation short, the municipalities are the type of entities that have the most responsibilities and therefore the most financing. The other forms of autonomy have to do with ethnicity and identity and with tradition.

Lastly, the referenda are the last step of a long process, through which the formulation of such documents had to be written by officials, presented to the population through countless events, revised, voted on in the respective assemblies, checked by the national government for its conformity with the 2009 Bolivian Constitution to then ask the citizens whether they also approved it or not.

November 12, 2016

What Will a Trump Presidency Mean for Latin America and Bolivia?


Donald J. Trump has won the November 8, 2016 elections and will, in January 2017, be sworn-in as the 45th President of the United States. That, pretty much, has been a more than surprising outcome to people of all kinds, supporters, opponents and "the conflicted" in between. No one was sure how determined that mass of mostly white, older, less well-to-do along with the better offs and some angry women were. The reality is, the next US President will be Mr. Trump and everyone has to accept that fact and has to start making arrangements to live under his administration. After all, it was the result of yet another North American electoral process, where "the people" chose its next leadership.

While the question of leadership is already answered, that answer raises, at the same time, many more subsequent questions. In fact, the US is such an internationally-relevant country that these questions go beyond the national borders of the country. While North Americans will be asking themselves, things like, will Obamacare be repealed now? will the government build that wall along the Mexico border? will I benefit from the coming tax rebates? how many jobs will be created now and am I qualified for them? etc., countries around the world are asking themselves questions such as, will the US retreat from world affairs? will it protect its economy? will its approach to security follow the same lines it has been following so far? etc.

Along these lines, Latin American countries will be asking themselves the same questions. Above all, however, they are asking themselves: What to expect from a Trump presidency? However, before attempting to venture down this highly speculative question, at this point in time, it is necessary to get to know the next US President a bit better and what he brings to the office.

Who is Donald Trump?

Donald Trump is a business man, born, raised and living in New York City. His story is far from the familiar story of the American Dream, where a dish washer works his way up to millionaire. Mr. Trump started his business career in his family's real state company in the early 1970s. After graduating from business school (at Wharton's Real State program), he took over the company and became Chairman and President. He renamed it The Trump Organization, with the aim of turning it into a large conglomerate of many companies operating in various business areas, which he eventually succeeded in doing.

The core business has always been real state and construction, but Mr. Trump also ventured into hotel, golf course and casino management, professional sports, beauty pageants, and for profit higher education. He has also ventured in media and branding, successfully licensing his name and producing at least one successful television program.

Mr. Trump is largely perceived with in the US as a successful real state business man, because he owns property, not just in prime locations in New York city, but also in and around the country as well as in other parts of the world. Various sources mention Mr. Trump's skills as a good negotiator. Such a claim has been variously substantiated by various articles revisiting his dealings with New York city's bureaucratic instances at the time of getting construction permits, for example. He himself, has spoken of his ability to successfully use the law in his advantage through the tax code loop-holes, the bankruptcy process or even at the time of negotiating a deal in the many legal cases he has had to face. Above all, however, Mr. Trump's unfamiliarity or inexperience with public office has apparently qualified him as a candidate who is truly not part of the "political establishment" in Washington, DC.

Trump's political muscle

Mr. Trump has only won the necessary number of electoral college votes while narrowly loosing the popular vote by about 3 million votes, but his position will still be strong, at least for the first two years, due to the Republican Party winning the control (majority) of both the Senate and the House of Representatives. That gives him enough political muscle to start his administration.

Now, in the logic of American politics, the fact that a president begins with such a strength his presidency, is expected, according to some experts. An incumbent and its party are expected to win in both houses when an outgoing president has been in office for two terms. Presumably, the people want a change. This initial strength will be very useful for Mr. Trump. That means Mr. Trump has two years to realize as many campaign promises as he can, with help of his party's majority in Congress. After two years, and this is another particularity of American politics, the control of one or both houses tend to change hands. Mid-term elections happen half way a presidential term. These elections seeks to renew both houses of Congress in the middle of a presidential term.  

A caveat must however be noted in this case because Mr. Trump, during this first two years and depending on the issue, might face some opposition from within his own party, which is not a particularity of American politics. As we already know he has been a polarizing figure, and his party has not been immune to this dynamic. This is most likely however to manifest itself on promises to change the political establishment in Washington, DC., of which many Republican Party members are part of and happy with it.

His positions on issues relevant to Latin America.

Unfortunately for the region, Latin America has come out short in attention during the Trump campaign season. The only country south of the border that was mentioned with some regularity by Mr. Trump has been Mexico, and always in relation with trade and immigration. Hemispheric relations therefore have been a lingering mystery.

Now, President-elect Trump has expressed a number of things he wants to do in his first 100 days in office. Above all, he has made it clear he wants to put the interests of America first, which is nothing new for a candidate or a president to say. However, what gives the Trump presidency an unseen and disquieting quality is the likelihood that he intends to pursue his objectives with an uncompromising attitude towards national and world politics. That, almost dogmatic, regardless off, attitude he seems to have has been the source of concern for many governments around the world.

The Latin American governments have been expectant for the same reason. Much of what can be expected from a Trump administration, in the short run, will depend on Trump and in the long run will depend on who will be forming part of his cabinet, which is being reported will be populated by lobbyists and people close to the industries they will be in charge of. Relevant positions for the region would be: Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Energy, National Security Advisor (s), Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemispheric Affairs, Secretary of the Home Land Security and Secretary of Commerce.

Following is a list of a number of things he has said he wants to achieve as soon he takes office. They are not directly related with the region but they are bound to have effects on it. For example:

1. Renegotiation of NAFTA

The new Trump administration, within its first 100 days of work, will notify Canada and Mexico the US government's intention to renegotiate the treaty. The aims will be to get better terms for American workers and create more jobs for them. Such a move is, moreover, highly likely due to the support for this idea within the Republican Party itself.

This would be detrimental to the Mexican economy, most of all, because this country has been benefiting significantly from this deal. Alone the US trade deficit figure with Mexico for 2016 of around 45 billion gives an idea of how much Mexico benefits from NAFTA. Another benefit has been the fact that many American companies have been building factories in Mexican soil to produce at better conditions.

Detrimental would be the passing of restrictions for American companies to set up work on the other side of the southern border. The logical result would be an exodus of American companies and the resulting mass unemployment with its consequent drop in consumption. This will specially happen in Northern Mexico where several cities have been the source of "accessible" labor for many American Enterprises. A Trump administration also promised restrictions or, at the very least, an increase in the control measures to enter the US. This will similarly be detrimental for the exchange between Mexico and the US. Not just people will be affected, but goods that cross the border day by day.

Thinking further along these lines, if the Trump administration deports many (or all) of those undocumented Mexican (and most likely people from other countries) citizens, the result could mean a disruption in the Mexican job market, which could also mean that more unemployed people might find other opportunities to survive, such as joining many of the criminal networks already active in Northern Mexico. And if we think even further, some of those American companies have also set up work in some Central American countries. The expected result would be a retreat from those countries as well and the resulting impact on the local economy and society.

In addition, the US has signed free trade agreements known as FTAs with 11 Latin American countries: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru. It has also been negotiating regional FTAs with pacific nations and the EU. However, Mr. Trump has said he wants to revise or "renegotiate" some of the FTAs the US has in good will already negotiated and is in the process of formalizing.

In a more positive light, maybe the reduced opportunities to enter the US market will force Mexico to turn its attention to the rest of the Latin American region even more than it has been doing until now. Perhaps, the trade with Brazil or Argentina or Chile will take up more importance. Certainly, trade with China will become crucial.

One question remains, what will happen with all those bilateral FTAs signed with those Latin American countries?

2. Withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Another action taken within the first 100 days of a Trump administration will be the withdrawal from the TPP, which seeks to increase trade within all or most of the countries with Pacific coast lines. Various sources have estimated the TPP represents 1/3 of the world's trade. TPP members expected to gain access to one of the largest and wealthiest markets in the world. In that sense, the big prize would be the access to the US market. Within this treaty, the US negotiated the removal of tariffs on manufactured goods and agricultural products.

In South America, Chile, Mexico and Peru, signatory members, would undoubtedly benefit from this. Specially Chile and Peru, which are two nations that export a number of agricultural products such as fruits, grains and other so called power-foods. Chile, for example, has several free trade treaties signed (one with the EU), would lose important access for its fruits, its wines and its fish products. Peru is bound to feel the effects on its grain products such as quinoa, which has been booming since a couple of years and the US market has been the principal destination for such products. Along the same lines, but in smaller scale, Bolivia and Ecuador would also feel the restrictions on trade.

Trump's pledge to withdraw from TPP would mean, according to many experts, the death of the TPP. The advantage for Trump will be that the treaty has not yet been ratified by the US Congress, therefore, it is still an executive decision and it does not need a compromise between the Executive and the Legislative.

3. Lift restrictions on the production of shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal (50 trill.)

The lifting of restrictions on the production of oil and natural gas will have a more direct impact on the Latin American region, with potentially devastating effects for some countries dependent on the export of such products.

In the last years, the world has experienced a drop in oil and natural gas prices due to the US increasing its supply of oil -a result of fracking. One vivid example of the potential for devastation is the current state of Venezuela. As the price of oil in the international markets began to drop in 2013, so began the political problems for the Venezuelan government. Today, Venezuela is experiencing unprecedented inflation, food shortages and massive debt, even though it has the largest oil reserves in the region and it is the fifth largest oil supplier in the world.

Many Latin American countries are dependent (some heavily) on the production of one natural resource, with this I mean oil or natural gas. Many of these countries elaborate their budgets based on their earnings from these exports. Normally, a government will take an average price of oil and will budget its projects based on that price. This practice is also relevant for natural gas producing countries since its price is coupled to the price of oil. Under this threat are countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia, and to a lesser extent Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, and (already mentioned) Venezuela. These are countries which either export oil or natural gas and have been feeling the drop in international prices and are bound to feel once again the effects of an increase in US oil and natural gas production resulting from a Trump new policy.

4. Passing an Illegal Immigration Act

The passing of the planned Illegal Immigration Act, which noted will need the support of Congress and will be a much more debated issue, will have some related effects on the Latin American region. The bill will restrict immigration to the US and will seek to eliminate illegal immigration within the US. Among its objectives, there is the intention to stop federal funding for the so-called safe haven cities, which are cities that have expressed their intention not to persecute illegal immigrants. Those cities are prone now to lose federal funding if they keep this status. This will intensify the controls, arrests and ultimately the return of many illegal immigrants to their home countries.

Another effect that will intensify the return of Latin Americans to their home countries will be the provisions to deport illegal immigrants, and those that have committed federal offenses or multiple misdemeanors as well as punish with prison and then deport those who break the law. The US has already gone through a period of deporting "criminals" in the 1990s. Mass deportation of mostly young Salvadorians, Hondurans, and Guatemalans who were part of youth gangs known as Maras were deported. While these actions did have a generative impact on many US cities around the country because it reduced crime, the effect on the Central American countries was almost devastating. In El Salvador, they are still dealing with gang-related violence. While it is certainly possible that mass deportations do not become necessarily negative, the risk is there.

Considering a passing of such a law by a Trump government, the subsequent development might have two effects. First, a wave of returning people might strain the budgets of many countries, or at least their job markets. We have already seen this happening in Central American countries such as Honduras and El Salvador in the late 1990s. These countries experienced strains on their job markets and whatever social services they had in place. Second, many countries will feel the effects of this measure through the reduction on the remittances section in the respective balance sheet of a country, specially if the US government heavily taxes them as Trump plans to do. That is, immigrants (legal or illegal) have tended to send part or all of their wages back to their home countries to help their families and friends (most of the time) survive. Since the 1990, many countries such as Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador or El Salvador and Honduras or Guatemala have received significant amounts of foreign currencies from the US or, as in the example above, Euros from Spain. For not so few countries this amounts of money have meant palpable progress.

On the positive side, a wave of returns to home countries might mean a return of skilled labor and even of some highly skilled labor.

5. Inward looking foreign policy

Mr. Trump has not revealed much of his intentions on foreign policy, but his "America First" attitude towards foreign policy issues (as well as economic, political and social) has been a source of uncertainty in the world. Once again, thinking further ahead, it is very hard to imagine that with such attitude Mr. Trump will keep on supporting America's policy towards giving foreign aid to Colombia. Most observers look with some degree of concern recent developments on the peace process in that country, which could (and still can) have ended six decades of armed conflict. The most troubling part is the rejection through a referendum of the treaty itself. Those same observers argue that Colombia will need that aid specially now that the peace is fragile. The question remains, will Mr. Trump continue supporting the Colombian peace process and the subsequent development of the Colombian society?

There are two countries that have received some attention from Mr. Trump very late in the election: Venezuela and Cuba. While visiting Florida, Trump expressed solidarity for what he called "the oppressed people of Cuba and Venezuela". He actually twitted this in October this year (sorry I do not have the source). We only have questions on this. The logical questions are: what will he do with the advances in relations between the US and Cuba? Will the US embassy in Havana close again? Will he reestablish the blockade? Alas, he has already said he will reverse Obama's executive orders towards Cuba. What will he do to support the Venezuelan people? Will he increase the supply of oil to undermine the Venezuelan government? Will he eventually stop buying Venezuelan oil?

What can Bolivia expect from a Trump presidency?

As far as Bolivia is concerned, the country can expect very little attention from a Trump presidency. Ever since Evo Morales took office, the relationship between Bolivia and the US has been deteriorating to the point where there is not much bilateral relation, even USAID has left the country. However, given that political relations have reached its lowest mark, culturally and economically the relationship has remained alive and well.

Culturally, because there is a significant number of Bolivian expats living in the US. These people are the basis for cultural entanglement. Many Bolivians have either married American citizens or have had children in the US and therefore are inextricably linked with the US. A significant majority of these Bolivians travel between the two countries due to business, family, studies and culture. In economic terms, and by that I mean trade, the US, even after all the political asperities with the Bolivian government, remains the second or third most important trade partner.

In 2016, according to the Bolivian Institute for International Trade (IBCE, in Spanish), the US represented 16% of Bolivian exports and 10% of imports. The first place was taken by Brazil, and the following after the US by Argentina, both buy natural gas from Bolivia. However, as mentioned earlier, if the US increases its supply of oil and natural gas, it could have serious consequences for Bolivian economic growth. The current government basically depends on a relatively favorable natural gas price to finance what it calls the industrialization of the country.

At the moment, with the price of oil and natural gas back to acceptable levels (around 40 USD), the economy has started to grow again and to develop hopeful prospects for the coming years. The government has projected a 4 % rate of growth for the next years. But, if we remember the economic downturn in 2014 and 2015, due to the drop in raw materials prices, the Bolivian economy suffered a short shock with reduced projections of economic growth. Of course, every issue has its other side. If things turn for the worst, the current government will have one more reason to keep the US government as the enemy of the Bolivian people and therefore a reason to keep supporting the government.

It can be expected that this will not be different with a Trump presidency. It was similar with an Obama presidency, even though one might have thought among these two historical leaders there would have been more in common. The drug eradication issue will continue to be a way to exert some influence over the Bolivian government. After all, the US government has tied drug eradication to access of Bolivian goods to the American market. In addition, Mr. Trump demonstrated during his campaign his disregard for the Latin American region. Only Mexico merited a visit, but that could hardly be labeled as a diplomatic visit. Instead, it seemed more a show of strength and to make Mr. Trump look statesman. Good for his campaign.