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Failed presidencies and social protest in the context of Bolivian politics: Empirical evidence
Unformatted Document Text:  more importantly, in the movements leaders’ memory. In this manner, protests are an ever present tool at the disposal of protesters. Today, more than ever, these street protests have acquired new strengths having had many times a defining role in the decision of a president to step down. Moreover, during the democratic transition period in the beginning of the 1980s, the labor movement came out of a period where it assumed the role of ‘defender of democracy’ in response to the various military dictatorships. On regular bases, the miner syndicates would stage marches, strikes and street protest to repudiate the rupture of the democratic process. The movement in general felt responsible for those political gains after its central role in the 1952 revolution. In the period of re-democratization, their protagonist role was undeniable. As we will see later, these syndicates were a major political force, at times taking part in the policy making using the social protest as a tool to force the government to take them into account. On the one side, during the 1990s, these syndicates had been demobilized through the government’s privatization programs. Tens of thousands of workers became unemployed and emigrated to other cities, to then reorganize and begin participating once again. In particular, the cities of La Paz, the seat of government, and El Alto were, and still are, the new centers of action. The syndicates relied on a negotiation/pressure strategy, where they would push their agenda through pressuring the government with strikes, marches and demonstrations, while at the same time engaging in negotiations with official authorities. This was (and still is) a contentious strategy, which seems to be working well for the movements. On the other side, in 1994, the government introduced a decentralization program to bring the government closer to the people and increase participation. The Popular Participation Law provided for the opening of political spaces for civil society and the population in general. The aim was to give incentive to people to actively participate in the political process. People, though skeptic in the beginning, realized the potential of such a law and began to take it seriously. The figure below shows that the level of participation of Bolivians in political activities is now relatively high within the region. It also shows that people participated in protests through a wide range of organizations, such as civic committees, professional associations and political groups (Seligson, et al, 2006). 16

Authors: Buitrago, Miguel.
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more importantly, in the movements leaders’ memory. In this manner, protests are an ever
present tool at the disposal of protesters. Today, more than ever, these street protests have
acquired new strengths having had many times a defining role in the decision of a president to
step down.
Moreover, during the democratic transition period in the beginning of the 1980s, the labor
movement came out of a period where it assumed the role of ‘defender of democracy’ in
response to the various military dictatorships. On regular bases, the miner syndicates would
stage marches, strikes and street protest to repudiate the rupture of the democratic process.
The movement in general felt responsible for those political gains after its central role in the
1952 revolution. In the period of re-democratization, their protagonist role was undeniable. As
we will see later, these syndicates were a major political force, at times taking part in the
policy making using the social protest as a tool to force the government to take them into
account.
On the one side, during the 1990s, these syndicates had been demobilized through the
government’s privatization programs. Tens of thousands of workers became unemployed and
emigrated to other cities, to then reorganize and begin participating once again. In particular,
the cities of La Paz, the seat of government, and El Alto were, and still are, the new centers of
action. The syndicates relied on a negotiation/pressure strategy, where they would push their
agenda through pressuring the government with strikes, marches and demonstrations, while at
the same time engaging in negotiations with official authorities. This was (and still is) a
contentious strategy, which seems to be working well for the movements.
On the other side, in 1994, the government introduced a decentralization program to bring the
government closer to the people and increase participation. The Popular Participation Law
provided for the opening of political spaces for civil society and the population in general.
The aim was to give incentive to people to actively participate in the political process. People,
though skeptic in the beginning, realized the potential of such a law and began to take it
seriously. The figure below shows that the level of participation of Bolivians in political
activities is now relatively high within the region. It also shows that people participated in
protests through a wide range of organizations, such as civic committees, professional
associations and political groups (Seligson, et al, 2006).
16


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