History of the Peace Corps in Bolivia
The Peace Corps initially entered Bolivia in 1962 with a group of health Volunteers. The program continued to grow over the next nine years, with Volunteers working in public health, agriculture, and community development in rural communities and in education in both urban and rural areas.
In 1970, a coup installed a leftist military government. A number of economic, political, and social circumstances strained the formerly cordial relationship between Bolivia and the United States. At the same time, a popular 1969 Bolivian movie, Yawar Mallku (Blood of the Condor), strongly suggested that Peace Corps Volunteers were sterilizing indigenous women. While the film’s director denied any association and the film itself was not a documentary, many Bolivians believed the movie to be factual. Public sentiment toward the Peace Corps became increasingly antagonistic, and in 1971, the Peace Corps was expelled from Bolivia.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Bolivia
In 1989, the government of Bolivia invited the Peace Corps back, and on April 1, 1990, 11 Volunteers arrived in La Paz. Each of them had already completed two years of Peace Corps service in another country and extended for a third year to facilitate the Peace Corps’ return to Bolivia. Working in the departments (states) of Chuquisaca and Tarija, they paved the way for the Peace Corps’ reentry.
Many development indicators rank Bolivia as one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. The repercussions of this extreme poverty are manifest throughout the country in high rates of maternal and infant mortality and preventable health disorders, an ineffective educational system, inadequate basic infrastructure, limited access to economic markets and technology, inefficient agricultural production, and environmental degradation.
The Peace Corps’ long-term goals in Bolivia mirror those of the Bolivian government and people: To eradicate poverty and provide-at the community level-the knowledge, tools, and capacities to help people improve their own lives.
Up to September 2008, about 140 Volunteers worked in five project areas: agriculture (production and marketing), basic sanitation (water systems, latrines, and solid waste disposal), integrated education (nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation education), microenterprise development (business education and community-based tourism), and natural resources (microwatershed restoration and improvement and environmental education). Volunteers in different projects often work together in an integrated and holistic approach to community development.
Bolivia is a large and vastly diverse country with extensive development needs. Peace Corps Volunteers uniquely address those needs at the grass-roots level.
In September 2008, Peace Corps Bolivia was withdrawn and the programs "temporarily suspended" due to deteriorating political relationships btween the US government and President Evo Morales of Boliva.