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Missionary Spotlight – Republic of Bolivia

May 2009

Republic of Bolivia

 

Area: 424,162 square miles.

 

Neighbours: Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and Peru.

 

Environment: Land-locked, with the Andes mountains (Nevado Sajama 6,542 m) and plateaus in the west, and Amazon and Plate river systems in the east. The climate varies accordingly, from cold semi-arid to tropical.

 

Population: Over 9 million. Many have migrated eastward, because of harsh climatic conditions and the decline in mining in the highlands.

 

Infant mortality: 49 deaths/1000 live births.

 

Constitutional capital: Sucre.

 

Actual capital: La Paz. The twin cities of La Paz-El Alto together have over one million inhabitants; Santa Cruz has a population of 1.3 million.

 

Urbanisation: 65 per cent.

 

Ethnic groups: Indigenous 55 per cent (of which, Quechua 30 per cent and Aymaras 25 per cent), mestizo (mixed white and Amerindian ancestry) 30 per cent, European and others 15 per cent.

 

Official languages: Spanish, Aymara and Quechua. There are 36 other languages.

 

Literacy: Male 93 per cent, female 81 per cent.

 

Economy: Bolivia is one of the least developed countries in Latin America, partly because 2003-05 was a period of political instability, racial tension and violent political protest. Mining is important, including tin, tungsten, gold, iron and zinc. Petroleum and natural gas are important exports, especially to Brazil and Argentina. Most manufacturing industries are in the cities. Bolivia has majestic scenery and tourism is a growth industry. Bolivia is the third largest producer of cocaine and has a large illegal drugs trade.

 

Religions: Catholic 85 per cent, Protestant (especially Evangelical Methodist) 9 per cent, Baha’i 3 per cent, and others including unaffiliated 3 per cent.

 

History: Bolivia, named after independence fighter Simon Bolivar, broke away from Spanish rule in 1825. Since then there have been nearly 200 coups. Democratic civilian rule was established in 1982, but leaders have faced huge problems resulting from deep-seated poverty, social unrest and illegal drug production.

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