Mountaineer Undergraduate Research Review

Document Type



In April of 2000, in the city of Cochabamba, Bolivia, mass protests over the privatization of water resources shook the very fabric of Bolivian society and politics. Behind this revolt that has come to be known as the Water War lays an omnipresent obstacle to Bolivia’s stability and development: neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is an economic model that came about in the 1980’s and sought to deregulate state run economies and open the market up to foreign investment (Dangl 2007, 25). According to Benjamin Dangl (2007, 7), the author of The Price of Fire, “Bolivia has been a longtime lab rat for neoliberalism, an economic system that promised increased freedoms, better standards of living and economic prosperity, but in many cases resulted in increased poverty and weakened public services.” Neoliberalsim, in combination with weak democratic institutions, became a catalyst for the events that unfolded in the past decade in Bolivia. To better understand the effects of neoliberalism, it is important to investigate the causes and results of the Water War as one of the most vital case studies of neoliberal policies and the effect weak democratic institutions had on the political culture in Bolivia. The Water War, which virtually took over the city of Cochabamba, not only changed the politics of water distribution but also set the stage for future demonstrations and the democratic revolution that would change the political system in Bolivia and force a greater level of government accountability to the people.



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