Bolivia in the 1930’s

Borders. – Following the resolution of the conflict with Paraguay for the possession of the Chaco Boreal (see below), an international military commission was charged with delimiting a neutral zone between the two armies. The provisional border line covering 300,000 sq km. of disputed territory he left 225,000 to Paraguay and 50,000 to Bolivia; the other 25,000 constitute the neutral zone.

The surface area of ​​Bolivia, already calculated at 1,208,500 sq km, can be considered reduced to the largely approximate figure of 1,100,000 sq km. (in fifth place among the South American states).

Economic conditions. – Bolivian agriculture in recent years has made significant progress. In 1931-32, maize occupied 350,000 ha. and gave a product of 6.6 million quintals; for wheat the figures are 50,000 ha respectively. and 400,000 q.; for barley, 98,000 ha. and 980,000 q.; for rice, 10,000 ha. and 340,000 q. In the Yungas region, the cultivation of coffee had a strong increase (20,000 ha. In 1931-32), whose product (about 220,000 quintals per year) is partly exported. On the other hand, the production of cocoa (25,000 quintals per year) and tobacco (less than 50,000 quintals) is barely sufficient for internal demand.

The livestock patrimony in 1931 was made up as follows: 2,064,000 cattle, 390,000 horses, 160,000 donkeys, 264,000 mules, 5,232,000 sheep, 987,000 goats, 398,000 pigs, 1,882,000 llamas and alpacas.

1929 was the year of maximum tin production (47,000 tons of metal); later, as a consequence of the world economic crisis, production went down, down to a minimum of 14,700 tons. in 1933. There was then a recovery, and in 1936 24,500 tons were obtained. metallic. In the decade 1927-36, the maximum production of silver was 318,200 kg. in 1936.

Commerce. – Foreign trade underwent, after 1929, a very significant contraction, both in exports and in imports, marking a notable recovery from 1933, as can be seen in the following table (in millions of Bolivianos):

State order (p. 316). – Bolivia has had numerous constitutions since its creation as a state. Since the year 1826, in which the first constitution that entrusted legislative power to three Chambers was sanctioned, there have been those of 1831, 1834, 1839, 1843, 1851, 1861, 1868, 1871 and 1878. The current Bolivian political constitution is that of 17-28 October 1880, amended on 11 January 1931. In art. 1 ° Bolivia adopts the unitary republican form; in the second “recognizes and supports the Catholic religion, allowing the public exercise of any other cult”, in accordance with the law of 1906.

The number of deputies is fixed by a special law. The senators are now one for each department; they are elected by direct vote, but in the future they will have to be elected by the departmental assemblies. All male citizens who can read and write and have a stable income are voters; if celibate, over 21 years of age; if married, over 18. The president of the republic cannot be re-elected unless at least eight years have passed since the expiry of the first mandate. There are also two Vice-Presidents. The ministers are responsible and their number is determined by a special law (currently 7 departments: Foreign Affairs and Cults; Finance and Industry, Interior and Justice; War and Colonization; Public Works and Communications; National Education and Agriculture; National Defense). There is also a National Economic Council, composed of representatives of the various producer categories, and which examines affairs relating to the national economy; its recommendations are forwarded to Congress.

Religion. – On January 27, 1930, the apostolic vicariate of Chiquitos (residence in San Ignacio) was created. The archdiocese of Sucre took on this name in 1924; among the suffragans it also has the apostolic vicariate of Chaco.

To aeronautics. – The military aviation corps is made up of two groups: a school group with French and American material and a war group with hunting, bombing and observation equipment. In total about sixty aircraft. There are currently three military airports.


As of December 31, 1937, the external debt amounted to 1931 million and the internal debt to 403 (of which 378 consolidated).

The Bolivian, after the monetary reform of 11 July 1928 which fixed its parity at 13.3 bolivianos = £ 1. (gold content 0.54917 g) remained stable only for a short time; linked in fact to the pound sterling, it was then strongly affected by its fall, therefore by the crisis in general and ultimately by the Chaco war. From October 1931, convertibility was suspended and exchange control introduced, alongside the official rate first of 20, then of 50, then of 80 bolivianos = £ 1. (at this rate the reserves of the Bank were revalued as at 31 December 1936), there were much more unfavorable commercial and banking prices. In August 1937, after the exchange control was abolished, the Bolivian rate was fixed at 100 for £ 1.

As of March 31, 1937, notes in circulation amounted to 250 million and reserves to 1.5 in gold and 152.8 in foreign currencies.

Banco Nacional de Bolivia (1871), Banco Mercantil (1906) and Banco Alemán Transatlantico (1886: the only foreign bank) are the main credit institutions, besides Banco Central (reorganization of Banco de la Nación in 1911) which it began to operate on 1 July 1929 and has a monopoly on the issue.

History. – After the fall, following an insurrectionary movement, of President H. Siles in June 1930, the presidency of the republic was assumed, in 1931, by Daniele Salamanca, who remained in power until November 30, 1934. Resigned then, he was replaced, ad interim, by the vice president L. Tejada Sorzano, who obtained an extension of the mandate initially until August 6, 1935, and then until August 15, 1936. But on May 17, 1936, a military pronouncement by the La Paz garrison removed the Tejada from presidency. President of the government council, then established, was appointed gen. D. Toro, Chief of Staff of the Supreme Command in the Chaco War. But after a coup by gen. Peñaranda, July 13, 1937, the gen. Toro resigned; he was succeeded, as provisional president, by Colonel G. Busch, who on 3 June 1938 was later elected president of the republic. For Bolivia 2011, please check

At the heart of more recent Bolivian history is the question of the Chaco Boreal and the resulting conflict with Paraguay. Reignited in full in 1932 (see Paraguay, XXVI, p. 291), the war (very bloody, especially due to the disastrous conditions in which the troops had to fight, in a region like the Chaco, between epidemics, etc.) to 1935 (see paraguay, App.) turning unfavorably for Bolivia despite the fact that, ultimately, the League of Nations recognized the reasons for Bolivia, abolishing the embargo for arms shipments to Bolivia and keeping it, instead, for Paraguay. Finally, with the mediation of Brazil, the United States, Uruguay, Chile and Argentina, an armistice was reached in June 1935, renewed with the Buenos Aires protocol of 21 January 1936.

In April 1938 relations between the two countries again became very tense: Bolivia rejected the proposal put forward by the mediating states (Buenos Aires conference), that the question of Chaco should be settled through direct negotiations between Bolivia and Paraguay, assuming an arrangement based on the positions held by the troops of the two countries. To obviate the danger of a resumption of the war, the representatives of all the American republics met in Buenos Aires (May 27, 1938) to try to resolve the dispute (see also Paraguay, App.).

However, if in this way the hostilities were put to an end, at least temporarily, the precise delimitation of the borders of the two states in the contested area has not yet been carried out; the general situation of relations between the two states is far from definitively clarified.

Bolivia in the 1930's