Country Listing

Bolivia Table of Contents




Plaza Avaroa, located in the Sopocachi suburb of La Paz
Courtesy United States Department of State

The United States

United States military aid to Bolivia remained frozen for eight years until September 1985, shortly after Paz Estenssoro assumed office. In the second half of the 1980s, the United States continued its former role as Bolivia's principal foreign source of military assistance. The United States provided assistance through its Military Aid, Foreign Military Sales, and International Military Education and Training programs. In addition, Bolivian officers received training at the School of the Americas (relocated to Fort Bragg) in fields such as radio and communications.

Bolivia and the United States also held two joint counterinsurgency exercises and one major antinarcotics operation in eastern Bolivia during the 1986-87 period of the Paz Estenssoro government (see Narcotics Trafficking , this ch.). Code-named "United Forces--86," the exercises involved some 270 soldiers from Southcom and at least 1,000 Bolivian troops.

Three weeks of counterinsurgency exercises known as "Absalom" or "United Forces 87--Bolivia" were carried out in May 1987 with the participation of 350 United States troops and more than 1,000 Bolivian soldiers. According to the Bolivian minister of national defense, their objectives were to bring the staffs of the three armed forces branches up to date on the modern methods of conventional and unconventional warfare, to train the FF.AA. in conducting field exercises, and to carry out civic action. In testimony before the United States Congress, the United States deputy assistant secretary of defense for drug policy and enforcement explained that the joint counterinsurgency exercises emphasized command, control, communication, and intelligence procedures, as well as tactical air, riverine, special, military police, and light infantry operations.

In 1988 United States aid to the Bolivian military was being funneled through the Armed Forces Development Corporation (Corporación de las Fuerzas Armadas para el Desarrollo Nacional-- Cofadena), headquartered in La Paz. One of the military regimes created Cofadena as an industrial, agricultural, and mining holding company and development organization. Military companies under its purview included the National Factory of Explosives and Munitions (Fábrica Nacional de Explosivos y Municiones--Fanexa). The FF.AA. also established its own commercial bank, the Banco del Progreso Nacional (National Progress Bank).

In November 1988, Bolivia's minister of national defense announced that the United States, at the request of the Bolivian government, would grant the nation US$25 million to modernize the FF.AA. over a five-year period. United States financial assistance to the FF.AA. totaled US$5 million in 1988 and US$5.3 million in 1989. The military assistance agreement also included technical, training, and materiel aid. In January 1989, Bolivia's Congress authorized 300 United States military technicians, logistical personnel, and soldiers to spend four months expanding the runway of Potosí's Captain Rojas Airport to 3,000 meters by leveling a hill. Bolivia reportedly also agreed to receive three special United States military missions a year to train Bolivian troops. The FF.AA. also acquired four Hercules C-130 aircraft in 1988, in addition to equipment donated by the United States Army during previous exercises.

Data as of December 1989