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Despite Bolivia's exemplary commitments, the country's deeply fragmented social reality is only one of its many challenges to realizing pluralism.

Assessed Groups

  • Ethnic Dimension
  • Regional Dimension
  • Political Dimension

Bolivia defines itself as a plurinational democracy. A plurinational democracy or nation refers to the co-existence of more than one nation within a nation. Bolivia recognizes multi-ethnic identities and the protection of Indigenous rights in both its Bolivia’s inclusive laws and social protections also reflect a high level of pluralism.  Yet, socioeconomic inequalities and political polarization threaten this progress. The Monitor assessment uncovers two main issues affecting pluralism for Bolivians today. The first issue relates to the divisions caused by the political wounds from the 2019 political crisis. The second issue posing challenges to pluralism is that of unequal citizenship. This assessment was completed in 2021.


Indigenous groups continue to face disadvantages

Despite significant advances in Indigenous rights, many Indigenous groups still face the stark reality of inequality and disparities.

They are disproportionately impacted by socioeconomic inequalities over their non-Indigenous counterparts. Racial hierarchies continue to operate in Bolivia and favour white or mestizo Bolivians. In addition to systemic discrimination, the regional dimension of Indigenous lives has yet to be successfully addressed by the government. Many Indigenous groups are located in hard-to-reach areas, where it is harder to access social services, including child-care centres, health care, or quality education. Overall, these disparities have reinforced cycles of poverty, violence and discrimination.

Lack of trust and solidarity underpin group-based mobilization

Across Latin America, Bolivia showcases high levels of lack of solidarity and trust between Indigenous groups.

The polarization of trust between Indigenous groups has, without a doubt, emerged as a barrier to mobilization, seeking justice, and making unified claims against the government. The current political climate also impacts the lack of trust, as there are general assumptions made in Bolivian society about which Indigenous groups support which political groups. Overall, a lack of trust and solidary among Indigenous groups underpins experiences of invisibilization and silencing of minority groups.

Group-based rights vs individual rights

Although significant advances have been achieved for Indigenous group-based rights, the same cannot be said for gender rights.

With a government focused on elevating group-based identity as a priority for all areas of life, gender rights have instead become subsumed and marginalized. The adoption of a one-size-fits-all, universal approach towards Indigenous identities has left behind the intersectional experiences of Indigenous women. As a result, Indigenous women, whether from a majority or minority group, feel underrepresented in politics or without a voice in local communities.

Drivers for Pluralism in Bolivia

These best practices are driving and enhancing pluralism in Bolivia.

Inclusive Local Media

Community radio stations are strengthening representation of Indigenous language and local issues in the media.

Sense of Belonging

The national government’s recognition of Indigenous languages and identities has led to a stronger sense of national community.

Vibrant Civil Society

Civil society and civic committees serve as an access point for resources, contribute to local inclusion, and advocate They are also known to protest injustices.


Ensure the independence of the judicial system

Bolivia has the opportunity to strengthen policy implementation and continue safeguarding Bolivian’s human rights by reforming the judicial system to guarantee its full independence. This could also prevent the misuse of the justice system for political gain as well as improve trust in institutions.

Facilitate processes to access Indigena Originario Campesino autonomy

There are current bureaucratic and technical barriers that limit Indigenous groups’ access to IOC autonomy. Consequently, Indigenous groups’ rights to free determination, territorial control and preservation of their cultural identities are limited. Reviewing legislations such as the Framework Law for Autonomy and Decentralization to improve these processes can help support Indigenous rights and autonomy.

Promotion of pluralism in the media sector

Promoting pluralism in the media sector has the potential to foster environments of mutual dialogue and respect. Due to the increased polarization of the nation, this can help increase national awareness of social inequalities that often drive conflict.

Develop empirical studies about Indigenous languages

Having recognized 36 Indigenous languages in their Constitution, Bolivia has the unique opportunity to promote the recuperation of non-dominant Indigenous languages and consider them for the translation of official documents and policies. This can be done by developing empirical studies of the use and relevant of different Indigenous languages on the parts of Bolivia with most vulnerable minority groups.


Legal Commitments

International Commitments

Average score: 6

Bolivia has ratified all major UN Human Rights Treaties. Yet, there are gaps between state reporting and independent reporting. These gaps point towards increased human rights violations. Although bodies such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have raised concerns about this, Bolivia has yet to respond to allegations of human rights violations.

National Commitments

Average score: 6

Bolivia has a pluralistic constitution that includes the values and principles of Indigenous groups. This is built into the foundation of the state.  However, branches of government do not have strong independence. This has weakened national commitments to pluralism.

Inclusive Citizenship

Average score: 6

Bolivia’s Constitution has provisions for both inclusive citizenship and the suspension of citizenship. Yet, communities in hard-to-reach areas do not have full access to citizenship. The ruling party is also known for suspending the citizenship of political opponents.


Policy Implementation

Average score: 3

Pluralistic policy implementation often results in conflict. Favouritism of groups by the government has resulted in injustices and policies that do not focus on Indigenous ways of life. Many of these policies designed to do good are not implemented properly. As a result, many Bolivians are excluded.

Data Collection

Average score: 5

Bolivia’s National Institute for Statistics conducts a census every ten years. Yet, there is a lack of data on group-based inequalities in Bolivia. This includes sexual orientation, violence against women, and child labour, among others. According to non-governmental organizations, existing data is difficult to access and often manipulated.

Claims-making and Contestation

Average score: 6

Political affiliation impacts Indigenous groups’ ability to protest or engage in mobilizations. Minority Indigenous groups that are not affiliated with a political party are often discredited. Claims-making becomes a process through which they are made invisible. As a result, their interests and demands go unrepresented.

Leadership for Pluralism

Political Parties

Average score: 5

While all political parties support inclusive policies, not all promote pluralism. As a result, Indigenous groups and women feel excluded and unrepresented by political parties.

News Media: Representation

Average score: 6

Community radio stations allow rural communities to discuss local issues and concerns in their native languages. These stations have become increasingly popular. However, larger media outlets tend to have a clear political position. Media outlets that support the government are more likely to receive preferential treatment.

News Media: Prominence of Pluralistic Actors (B)

Average score: 6

Political polarization has made it difficult for media actors to adopt pluralism. Most media outlets seek to produce content that secures funding for the outlet. This results in airtime showcasing biased information about the government and the rise of fake news.

Civil Society

Average score: 5

Membership with a local civil society organization is almost compulsory in Bolivia. This affiliation becomes necessary to access resources in hard-to-reach areas. In rural areas where the government lacks presence, civil society such as sindicatos campesinos or comités cívicos fill the gaps.

Private sector

Average score: 5

Indigenous men are overrepresented in the informal private sector across Bolivia. Combined with a small presence of the formal sector, this leads to the exploitation of marginalized Indigenous groups. This results in the worsening of intergroup inequalities.

Group-based Inequalities


Average score: 6

There is not much room in Bolivia for political diversity. This is due to the strong presence of the ruling party across state institutions and organizations. This lack of political diversity has reinforced social inequalities, as well as the exclusion of women in the political sphere.


Average score: 2.5

Despite pluralistic policies, Indigenous Bolivians still fare worse than their non-Indigenous counterparts. These economic inequalities worsen when comparing urban and rural areas. Additionally, economic inequalities also influence political affiliation. Lower-income individuals are given to supporting the MAS party, while higher-income individuals are more inclined to supporting the opposition.


Average score: 3.5

Government inefficiencies impact the provision of social services. The lack of access to education or healthcare has helped perpetuate inequalities. Because this access is marked by economic class, women in rural areas are more affected. Indigenous women tend to have the lowest levels of access to social services.


Average score: 5.5

Although the 2009 Constitution recognizes all Indigenous symbols, the ruling party only represents the symbols and expressions of majoritarian, Highland groups. This has resulted in feelings of exclusion and a lack of representation by minority Indigenous groups. These minority groups often see their own symbols appropriated by political opposition groups. Consequently, minority Indigenous groups are labelled ‘separatists’ when celebrating their culture.

Access to Justice

Average score: 2.5

Bolivia faces challenges in guaranteeing pluralism through the rule of law. The judiciary system in Bolivia is notorious for being weak and lacking independence. This results in the inordinate prosecution of political opponents. Minority Indigenous groups are also prosecuted, especially if they are not affiliated with the ruling party. Additionally, Indigenous justice systems are relegated to a secondary role.

Intergroup Relations and Belonging

Intergroup violence

Average score: 5

Although most Bolivians frown upon physical violence, episodic violence has been on the rise since 2019. The Pluralism Perceptions Survey identifies two main causes of violence: political affiliation and ethnic-based discrimination. A key component of this violence is the role of the government as an instigator. For example, the current Arce government is not neutral. This government incites loyal organizations to engage in demonstrations that can often turn violent.

Intergroup Trust

Average score: 2.5

Bolivians exhibit some of the lowest levels of trust of other people in the world. Historical differences between ethnic groups and isolation from regional communities are, in part, responsible. Indigenous groups tend to trust each other over their non-Indigenous counterparts. However, increased political polarization has added another layer of distrust.

Trust in Institutions

Average score: 5

Trust in institutions has seen a sharp decline since 2009. Although Indigenous groups tend to trust institutions more, Monitor findings show that this trust varies across Indigenous groups. Trust in institutions is lower for those groups not affiliated with the MAS ruling party. In other words, trust and legitimacy of institutions (e.g., police, media, courts) depend on political affiliation.

Inclusion and Acceptance

Average score: 6

Although inclusive policies have been a priority for the MAS government, inclusion has not been fully achieved. Smaller Indigenous groups often experience discrimination from these policies due to their Andino-centric approach. This often leads to a contentious relationship between the groups and the state. Inclusion and acceptance do not extend to opposition political parties, which governing parties seek to delegitimize.

Shared Ownership of Society

Average score: 7

Despite challenges to pluralism, most groups feel that they belong in Bolivia. This sense of belonging is equally strong between different genders. Overall, the MAS government has allowed Indigenous Bolivians to have a stronger sense of belonging than they did 20 years ago. Although there is a lack of inclusion of political opposition, this sense of belonging extends past political affiliation.