UPDATE: The Bolivian Legal Framework

By Gonzalo Dávila Maceda

Gonzalo Dávila Maceda is founding partner of Reynolds & Asociados Sociedad Civil - Estudio de Abogados in La Paz, Plurinational State of Bolivia. Gonzalo is a legal practitioner with postgraduates in business administration and in Oil & Gas Law. After being formed in a French High School in Bolivia he obtained his LLB at the Bolivian Catholic University’s Law School in 1997 and his Diploma in Petroleum Law in 2000 as a Chevening scholar at the Centre for Energy Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP) at the University of Dundee in Scotland. For more than 20 years he focused his experience in Civil Law, Commercial Law, Labor Law, Competition Law, Regulatory Law, Administrative Law, Environmental Law, Petroleum Law, Electricity Law, Telecommunications Law, Mining Law having acquired that experience working for almost 9 years as senior legal advisor for the Bolivian Hydrocarbons Regulator and from his later experience in the private counseling field for more than 12 years. He worked as intern at the Swiss Competition Commission in Bern-Switzerland. He has participated in the drafting of legislation in the oil and gas sector. He is member of the La Paz Bar Association since 1997. He lectures in several universities in La Paz. He speaks Spanish, English and French.

Published November/December 2018

See the Archive Version!

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

With the assumption to the Bolivian presidential power by Mister Evo Morales Ayma (the first indigenous president) in 2006 and with it the enactment of the New Political Constitution on February 7, 2009, Bolivia has been reborn as a new country with a totally new legal, political and economic framework originated in the emergence of the popular power based in an indigenous and socialistic conception, leaving in the past and for the history, its side as “Republic of Bolivia” with which it was structured since its independence by Simon Bolivar in 1825 but as well passing from a liberal conception that has been implemented for almost 20 years, to a socialist one. Therefore, since 2009, the official name is “Plurinational State of Bolivia” (Estado Plurinacional de Bolivia).

2. The Constitutional Framework

Considering that since 2009 the Bolivian legal framework has been defined by its new Political Constitutional Text, it is of high importance to describe its structure and explain the different political guidelines defined by it in various key topics.

The new Constitution has 411 articles organized into the following parts. Each part is further divided into titles and these into chapter. Some chapters are also divided into sections.

2.1. Fundamental Basis of the State, Rights, Duties and Guarantees

Type of State, Capital, and Symbols: Pursuantto Article 1 of the Constitution, Bolivia is constituted as a Social Unitary State of Communitarian Plurinational Law, free, independent, sovereign, democratic, intercultural, decentralized and with several autonomies. Bolivia is founded on plurality and on a political, economic, legal, cultural and linguistic pluralism, all being an integral part of the country make-up. Article 6 states that the official capital is “Sucre”, and approves as the Bolivian official symbols: the tricolor flag (red, yellow and green); the national hymn, the coat of arms, the indigenous flag named “wiphala” and the national flowers named “kantuta” and “Patuju”.

2.1.2. The Bolivian Nation and the Official Languages

Following that conception of pluralism, article 3 states that the Bolivian nation is integrated by the totality of masculine and feminine Bolivians, the indigenous nations and people, as well as the intercultural communities and afro Bolivians. As a consequence of that, the recognized official languages apart from Spanish are: “Aymara, Araona, Baure, Bésiro, Canichana, Cavineño, Cavubaba, Chácobo, Chimán, Ese Ejja, Guaraní, Guarasu’we, Guarayu, Itonama, Leco, Machajuvaj-Kallawaya, Machineri, Maropa, Mojeño-Trinitario, Mojeño Ignaciano, Moré, Mosetén, Movina, Pacawara, Puquina, Quechua, Sirionó, Tacana, Tapiete, Toromona, Uruchipaya, Weenhayek, Yaminawa, Yuki, Yuracaré and Zamuco” which are the native and indigenous languages that are spoken in Bolivia. However, the plurinational central government and the departmental ones must use at least two official languages, one of them being Spanish. The other autonomous governments must use their territory’s language.

2.1.3. The Position Over Religion

The new constitutional text guarantees the freedom of religion, emphasizing through its article 4, the State independence from religion.

2.1.4. Main Principles

Article 8 states from one side that for the plural society, the State assumes and promotes the following ethical principles inspired in the indigenous wisdom: “Don’t be lazy”; “don’t be a liar”; “don’t be a thief”; “The Well Living”; “Harmonious Life” and the “Noble Life.” From other side, the article says that the State sustains itself over the values of unity, equality, inclusion, dignity, liberty solidarity, reciprocity, respect, harmony, transparency, equilibrium, responsibility, common welfare, social justice, and the distribution and redistribution of products and social goods for the well living.

2.1.5. The Government System

With the objectives of a fair and harmonious society without discrimination nor exploitation, guaranteeing the responsible and planned utilization of natural resources through the sustainable development, article 11 of the Constitution states that Bolivia adopts a democratic form of government, with equivalence of conditions between men and women. That democracy is to be exercised through the direct and participative form (by means of the referendum, the legislative citizen initiative, the revocation of mandate, the assembly, the city council meeting and the previous consultancy), through the representative form (Implying the election of representatives through the universal, direct and secret vote), and through the communitarian form (Implying the election of indigenous representatives according to their own proceedings).

The State Public Power is composed (article 12 of the Constitution) by the Legislative, the Executive, the Judicial and the Electoral powers. Sucre is the seat of the judicial power, while La Paz remains the de facto the seat for the Legislative, Executive and Electoral powers.

2.1.6. Fundamental Rights

The new constitution puts lots of emphasis on the Bolivians’ fundamental rights (almost one hundred articles), highlighting that the recognized rights are to be exercised by Bolivians or foreigners (while being in the Bolivian territory) without distinction or discrimination of any kind. However, (in the intention of highlighting the inclusions of the relegated sectors of the Bolivian society) the wording along the constitutional text leads to confusion, because it highlights certain rights of women and indigenous people giving the impression of distinctions among Bolivians.

Amongst the several rights recognized, the State is given the obligation to guarantee alimentary security, the access to welfare and the access to housing. The Constitution also establishes the responsibility of the State to provide the facilities of water, a sewage system, electricity, domiciliary gas, a postal service and telecommunications, although allowing the possibility for private companies to provide some of those facilities. In addition, the constitutional text gives the quality of human rights to the “water access” and to the “sewage system access” emphasizing that these facilities are not open to privatization or concession.

Among the other recognized rights, the Constitutional text develops in specific chapters the civil and political ones, the indigenous ones and the social and economic ones, recognizing among them the rights to the environment, to welfare, to social security, to work (giving special constitutional protection to workers as they are considered the principal productive force of the society, establishing that labor rights are not attachable nor subject to prescription). The Constitution recognizes the right to private property (as long as it accomplish a social function), the rights of the youth as well as the family ones, the rights of the old aged people and the rights of people with different capacities, the rights of the people subject to privation of liberty and the user and consumer rights.

One important chapter belonging to the title of fundamental rights is the one referred to the right of education (giving to the State the financial responsibility for guarantying it and establishing as its objective, the integral formation of a person. The education should be oriented to the development of individual and collective skills as well as physical and intellectual competences, and to the preservation and protection of the environment, the biodiversity and the territory for the “Well Living.” Education is mandatory until obtaining the high school diploma. Education is mainly public but the private one is accepted, giving to parents the right to choose the convenient education for their children. Finally, the Constitution regulates the superior education, recognizing both public and private universities.

The final rights recognized by the Constitution are the right of diversity of cultures (which constitute the essential basis of the State), the right to the development of science, technology and investigation (giving the State the responsibility of assuring them), the right of practicing sports and exercising and the right of communication and of information (assuring the freedom of opinion).

2.1.7. Jurisdictional Guarantees

In this chapter the Constitution assures to Bolivians the rights of due process, of defense and of a plural, prompt, free, opportune, and transparent justice while recognizing the presumption of innocence.

2.1.8. Mechanisms of Defense

For securing the protection of all the rights recognized, constitutional mechanisms of defense are established. Thus the Habeas Corpus Action (for protecting the right of freedom), the Action of Protection (for the protection of most of the recognized rights when they cannot be adequately and promptly protected by other procedural means.), The Habeas Data Action for the Protection of Privacy, the Action of Accomplishment (in case of breach of legal dispositions by public officials), The Popular Action (for the protection of collective rights related with the patrimony, the space, the public security, the environment and others of same nature), and finally the Unconstitutional Action were all established.

2.2. Functional Structure and Organization of the State

As said before, the Bolivian Public Power is organized and structured by the Legislative, Executive, Judicial and Electoral branches. The organization of the State is based on the independence, separation, coordination and cooperation of them.

2.2.1. The Legislative Branch

Personified by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly, this power is formed by two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies (the lower chamber) and the Chamber of Senators (the upper chamber). The Assembly is the unique body empowered to approve and to sanction the Bolivian State laws. The Chamber of Deputies is composed by 130 members, from whom in a circumscription basis, half are elected through direct vote and half when voting for the President, Vice-President and Senators. The Chamber of Senators is composed by 36 members, at a reason of 4 senators for Department being elected through direct vote at the time of Presidential elections. As stated in articles 153 and 155, the head of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly is the Vice-President of Bolivia and sessions are opened every 6 of August. All congressmen are elected for a five years period with the possibility of only one continuous re-election.

2.2.2. The Executive Branch

This organ is composed by the President of the State, the Vice-President and the Ministers, forming the central government. The President and Vice-President are elected through direct vote. The candidates obtaining the 50% plus one vote from the valid votes or at least 40% with a difference of 10% over the second ones are to be proclaimed President and Vice-President for a five-year period with the possibility of only one subsequent re-election. Ministers (the Presidential Cabinet) are appointed directly by the President and are responsible of serving the Political Constitution in their respective cabinets, being responsible of their administrative decisions and acts.

2.2.3. The Judicial Branch and Jurisdiction

This organ is divided between the Ordinary Jurisdiction, the Agro-environmental Jurisdiction and the ordinary Indigenous Jurisdiction. All three have equal hierarchy. However, the Constitution recognizes the military jurisdiction as an especial one, entitled to acknowledge and decide over the military crimes.

The Ordinary Jurisdiction: The ordinary jurisdiction is composed by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (highest instance), the District Tribunals of Justice, the Courts of Decision and the lower judges. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice as the maximum ordinary, contentious and contentious-administrative Court of Justice of Bolivia is organized into specialized halls and is composed by Ministers of Justice who are elected (for a period of 6 years) by universal vote (simple majority) from a group of candidates selected by the legislative power. This position is to be executed in an exclusive way. Its head office is located in Sucre.

The Agro-Environmental Jurisdiction: The agro-environmental jurisdiction is formed by the Agro-environmental Tribunal (highest instance) and the Agro-environmental judges. Ministers of Justice have to have a specialization in the agrarian and environmental areas. They are elected for the same period and in the same way that the ones of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. The Agro-environmental Tribunal has the task to organize the Agro-environmental lower courts and to appoint the judges from lists given by the Council of the Magistracy.

The Indigenous Jurisdiction: The indigenous jurisdictionis applied to juridical relations or facts executed or which effects are produced within the area of an indigenous village. Justice is applied by the indigenous people own authorities. The Indigenous Jurisdiction has to be regulated by a jurisdictional demarcation law that will as well regulate the mechanisms of cooperation and coordination with the other recognized jurisdictions.

The Constitutional Justice: The constitutional justice is administered by the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal, which has the responsibility to assure that all the acts, resolutions and decisions of the governed and governors are subordinated to the Bolivian Political Constitution. That judicial organ controls the respect for constitutional rights and guarantees. In its interpretative function, it has to apply the constituent will according with its documents, acts and resolutions. The Tribunal is composed of Ministers of Justice elected under the same characteristics than the members of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

The Council of the Magistracy: The Council of the Magistracy, as part of the judicial Organ is the responsible body of the disciplinary regime of all recognized jurisdictions. At the same time, it is responsible of the administrative and financial management. Their members are to be elected for a six-year period, by universal vote from a group of candidates selected by the legislative power. The electoral process is organized by the electoral power.

2.2.4. Electoral Branch

According to article 205 of the Constitution, the Plurinational Electoral Organ is composed of The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (highest instance composed of seven members, which six are elected by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly and one is elected by the President of the State); The District Electoral Tribunals; The Electoral Courts; The Suffrage Jury and The Electoral Notaries. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal is responsible for the organization, administration and execution of all electoral processes. It manages the Civil Registry and the Electoral Census.

2.2.5. Functions of Control

The administrative control of public institutions and the institutions in which the State has participation or economical interests, is performed by the State Accounts General Examiner Office. According to article 213 of the Constitution, this office is empowered with determining presumptions of administrative, executive, civil or criminal responsibility. The head of this office is elected by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly for a six-year period.

2.2.6. Defense of the Society

Within the functional structure of the State, the defense of the Society is delegated both to the Ombudsman Office and to the Prosecutors Office. From one side the Ombudsman is charged to veil for the promotion, diffusion and accomplishment of the Human Rights established in the Constitutional text and other legal instruments. This office has functional, administrative and financial autonomy. The Ombudsman is totally independent from the four branches of the State; however. it is appointed by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly for a six-year period. From the other side, the Prosecutors Office will defend the general interests of the society and will exert the public criminal action. This office has as well functional, administrative and financial autonomy. The head of this office is the General Prosecutor. However, the office has district attorneys and lower ones.

2.2.7. Defense of the State

The defense of the Bolivian State is delegated to the State General Attorney Office. Its head is the State General Attorney who is appointed by the President of the State. His principal duty is to defend judicially or extra judicially the State interests.

2.2.8. Bolivian Army and Police

The armed forces are constituted by three forces (infantry; air and navy). According to article 243 of the Constitution, the army has the fundamental mission of the defense and preservation of the State independence, security and stability, its honor and the country’s sovereignty. The army does not deliberate and is subject to the military laws and regulations. The armed forces depend upon the President of the State and receives their orders through the Minister of Defense and through the Army Chief Commander.

The Bolivian Police has the mission of the society’s defense and the preservation of the public order within the Bolivian territory. The Police Forces depend upon the President of the State and receives their orders through the Minister of Government.

2.3. Territorial Structure and Organization of the State

The Constitution (article 269), establishes that Bolivia is territorially organized into four levels of administration: departments, provinces, municipalities, and indigenous territories, leaving to the “Autonomies and Decentralization Law” the regulation of the procedure to elaborate the autonomic statutes and organic charts as well as the coordination between the different levels of autonomies (The autonomy involves, direct election of the authorities, the right to manage economic resources and the legislative, and executive management.)

The Departmental Autonomy is made up of a Department Assembly, with deliberative, administrative and legislative powers. The Departmental Executive Power is managed by the Governor, who is elected by universal vote.

The Regional Autonomy is formed of various municipal territories or provinces with geographical continuity, sharing culture, language, history economy and ecosystems. It is made up of a Regional Assembly.

The Municipal Autonomy is made up of a Municipal Council, with deliberative, administrative and legislative powers within a municipality. The Municipal Executive Power is managed by the Mayor, who is elected by universal vote.

The Indigenous Autonomy consists in the self-government as the expression of the freedom of determination of Indigenous People. The self-government is to be performed with its own rules, authorities and proceedings but respecting the Political Constitution.

The relation between the four autonomies has to consider the following four kinds of competences:

2.4. Economic Structure and Organization of the State

2.4.1. General Economic Aspects

Article 306 of the Constitution establishes that the Bolivian economic model is plural and is oriented to improve the quality of life and the “Well Living” of all Bolivians. The “Plural Economy” is constituted by the communitarian, public, private and social-cooperative forms of economic organization.

According to the constitutional text, the maximum value of the State is the human being; therefore the State has to ensure its development through the equitable redistribution of the economic surplus in social, health, educational and cultural policies and through the reinvestment in the economic productive development.

Whilst private initiative is recognized for the benefit of the economic and social development, and freedom of business is guaranteed through the State regulation, according to article 311, the plural economy lies in the following aspects:

In that context, article 312 states for one side that any economic activity shall contribute to strengthen the economic sovereignty of the country. From the other side it forbids the private accumulation of economical power that menaces the economic sovereignty of the State. Finally, it establishes that all forms of economic organization are obliged to generate labor, to contribute to the reduction of discrimination and poverty and to protect the environment.

Therefore, in order to eliminate poverty and social and economical exclusion for the achievement of the “Well Living” article 313 says that the economic organization has to aim to:

Finally, the constitutional text forbids private monopoly and oligopoly as well as other forms of association that pretend the control and the exclusivity of production and commercialization of goods and services.

2.4.2. Environmental Policies

Within its economic part, the constitutional text inserts the important issue of the environment, establishing that the State and population have the duty of preserving, protecting and profiting off of natural resources and biodiversity in a sustainable manner. It states as well that people have the right to be consulted and informed over the decisions that could affect the environmental quality.

According to article 345, environmental policies are based on:

2.4.3. Policies over Natural Resources

After declaring that all natural resources are strategic and of public interest for the development of the country, article 349 states that natural resources are the property of the Bolivian people and correspond to the State their administration with a collective interest perspective.

The State will recognize, respect and grant individual and collective property rights over the land, as well as the rights of use and development for the other natural resources. However article 351 states that the State (through public, cooperative or communitarian entities) will assume the control and direction over the activities of exploration, production, industrialization, transport and commerce of all strategic natural resources, allowing the possibility to hire (for those purposes) private companies and to constitute mixed companies (through association agreements for the development of natural resources), ensuring not only the reinvestment of the economic profits in the country but the payment of taxes and royalties when intervening in the development of natural resources.

Hydrocarbons: With regard to hydrocarbons, Article 359 states that hydrocarbons, in any form or state in which they occur, are inalienable and imprescriptible property of Bolivians. The government, on behalf of Bolivians, exercises the property rights over all hydrocarbon production in the country and it is the unique authorized body to carry out its marketing. The total income generated by the sale of hydrocarbons will be property of the Government.

Mining: With regard to mining, article 369 states that the State will be responsible for all the mineralogical wealth located on the soil and subsoil and its application will be regulated by law. The State, the private and the cooperative industries are recognized as productive actors.

Water: According to article 373, water (considered a non-renewable resource) constitutes a fundamental right for life and the State has to give priority to its social use, denying the possibility of being subject to private property, being only subject to a regime of licenses and authorizations.

Coca Leaves: The constitution introduces an entire article dedicated to the coca leaf, regulating its protection by the State as a cultural patrimony, a renewable natural resource of Bolivia’s biodiversity, and a factor of social unity. Additionally, article 384 states that in its natural state the coca leaf is not a narcotic, delegating to a specific law the control over its production, marketing and processing.

2.5. Hierarchy of Norms and Constitutional Reform

2.5.1. Hierarchy of Norms

The fifth part of the Constitution establishes the following Norms order of application:

2.5.2. Constitutional Reform

With regard to this issue, article 411 states that any total reform of the Constitution has to be implemented through a Constituent Assembly, activated by the popular will, manifested through a referendum; whilst the partial reform of it can be initiated by means of popular initiative with the signatures of at least 20% of the electorate or by the Plurinational Legislative Assembly through a law of constitutional reform approved by 2/3 of the total present congressmen. The partial reform will also need a referendum approval.

2.6. Final Disposition

Finally, the Constitution expressly abolishes the former Constitution approved in 1967 as well as its modifications. With that, the Bolivian legal framework acquired a particular characteristic: from February 2009 the new Plurinational State of Bolivia had to start its legal life with a new constitutional regime but without legal dispositions derived from it and therefore, even though the former constitutional regime was abolished, the Plurinational State had to apply (in a long transition period which until this year [2018] has not finished yet) the laws approved while the former Constitution was into effect (in all the aspects that not contravene the new Constitution) in order to fulfill the imminent lack of legislation, until the approval of new legislation derived from the new constitutional text, tasked that since that year it has being accomplished progressively in all the legal subjects and still continues to the present as will be shown in the next part of this article.

3. The Bolivian Legal Situation –2009 - 2017

From that moment and progressively since, new legislation has been approved in many subjects in order to adjust the legal framework to the guidelines of the constitutional text and therefore replacing the legislation derived from the 1967 Constitution. However, the principal legal subjects are still regulated by antique codes that do not derive from the 2009 Constitution. Therefore, after the approval of the new Constitutional text, the Bolivian legal situation in the principal subjects is as follows.

3.1. Criminal Law and Human Rights

This subject is still regulated by the Criminal Code of 1972 with its various reforms approved that had the objectives to strengthen the rule of law, the protection of individual guarantees, to reinforce legal and citizen security and the anti-corruption fight, incorporating new criminal categories to fight impunity, money laundering, drug trafficking, civil service corruption and criminal organizations, judicial corruption, redefinition of fraud and fault and criminal responsibility for members of corporations.

In 2010, through the Supreme Decree 667 of October 8, an Ordered Text of the Penal Code has been approved, with the purpose of inserting in one sole text all the criminal conducts described in the laws that regulate other subjects and that were not in the Penal Code. However, after the approval of the 2009 Constitution other laws related with criminal law and Human Rights have been approved. That is the case of the following:

3.2. Administrative Law

In this area two big issues have been regulated as follows:

3.3. Civil Law

In this area, the Bolivian Civil Code promulgated in 1975 during the “de facto” Government of General Hugo Banzer Suarez is still regulating the civil relations in Bolivia. This code addresses the regulation of personal rights and status, goods and property, obligations and contracts, successions, inheritance, classes of succession and division of the inheritance, and the practice, protection and extinction of rights. Civil proceedings where regulated by the Civil Procedural Code promulgated in 1976 as well during the Government of General Banzer Suarez. However, through Law 439 of 19-11-2013, a new Procedural Civil Code was approved. The new procedural code tries to introduce modernity, dynamism and efficiency to judicial civil proceedings. Among the new characteristics of the new law are: process succession; celerity; oral proceeding; introduction of principles of Administrative Law such as material truth. The Code was applied partially and its total effects that had to enter into force in August 6, 2014 were postponed until February 6, 2016 by virtue of Law No. 719 of 6-8-2015.

From the other part, through Law No. 483 of 25-01-2014, regulated by Supreme Decree 2189 of 19-11-2014, the “Notary Law” and its regulations were approved, giving to the Bolivian Public Notaries the most important role in the civil area, relieving the workload of civil judges, giving the first ones, functions of knowing for instance, cases of divorce or of heir declaration when there are not disputes between the involved parties.

3.4. Family and Children Law

In 2014 the government addressed two important topics in order to adapt them to the Constitutional frame. From one side, children’s rights have been adapted through the enactment of the new “Boys, Girls, and Adolescents Code” by means of Law No. 548 of 17-7—2014, which were approved by the Supreme Decree No. 2337 of 21-9-2015. That Law aims to guarantee the exercise of children’s rights and to protect their superior interest. From other side, the family rights as well as the rights of their members and the relations between them have been treated in the new “Families Code” enacted by Law No. 603 of 19-11-2014.

3.5. Commercial Law

Commercial activities in Bolivia are still regulated by the Commercial Code which is also a legal disposition belonging to the Banzer legislation. The Code addresses the regulation of commercial obligations; the Registry of Commerce, the assistants in commerce, commercial companies in general: mercantile goods, the sale of securities and other things, and the distinct types of securities titles, such as the letter of exchange, promissory notes, the check, vouchers or debentures, to the study of the securities market, the stock market and other intermediaries, commercial contracts, special procedures, mediation and arbitration, antitrust law and bankruptcy.

However, in order to fasten, debureaucratize and modernize commercial procedures, through Law No. 779 of 21-01-2016, the Government modified the Commercial Code, introducing digital technology in procedures through the implementation of both, the “Electronic Gazette” and the “Yuriña” virtual system of digital information that has the purpose of manage, store and centralize commercial users’ information for the creation and operation of economic units.

Notwithstanding, and according to the social conception of the economy introduced by the Constitutional text of 2009, many national companies have been created between that year and 2017 by means of legal dispositions. That is the case of “CARTONBOL” (the State Carton Company), “LACTEOSBOL” (the State Dairy company), “PAPELBOL” (The State Paper Company), “ECEBOL” (The State Cement Company), “EBA” (The State Almond Company)and “AZUCARBOL” (The State Sugar Company) in 2010, “ENATEX” (The State Textiles Company), The Construction Company of the Army (which closed in 2015), The Strategic Company for the Production of Fertilizersand The Strategic Company for the Production of Seeds in 2011, the Karachipampa Metallurgical Company in 2013, “Mi Teleferico” a Public Cable Transport Company and the “Bolivian Tourism Public Company” in 2014, The “Glass Containers Productive Public Company” and “AGETIC” which is the State Agency of Electronic Government and Information Technology in 2015, and The “Strategic National Public Company of Bolivian Lithium Deposits”, and The “Public State Publishing Company” and “ESAB” (the Bolivian Air Services Company” in 2017. The implementation of those companies was delegated to the Service for the Development of Productive Public Companies created through the Supreme Decree No. 590 of 4-8-2010.

From other side, between 2009 and 2013 the State has nationalized companies in charge of strategic sectors such as the electricity one with the nationalization of companies in charge of the production, transmission and distribution of electricity; other nationalized sectors are the cement, mining, hydrocarbons, and the airports management and the airplanes fuel supply.

Finally, in this area, some specific laws are important to be mentioned:

3.6. Labor Law

In this period, this sector has been one of the most favored. Although the General Labor Law of 1939 with its various amendments made through the time is still regulating labor relations in Bolivia, since 2009, many legal dispositions have been enacted in favor of workers. That is the case of:

From other parts, Law No. 65 of 10-12-2010 has been enacted the “Law of Pensions”, establishing rules for the integral administration of pensions for workers. The law replaced the Private Pension Funds that were charged of managing the workers contributions for retirement by the Public Organ of Long-Term Social Security.

Finally, two aspects have to be mentioned. The first being that between 2009 and 2016, in occasion of the “working day”, the government has issued every year Supreme Decrees that aim to increase the amount of the Bolivian minimum wage. As an effect of that the amount of the minimum salary has increased from 647 Bolivianos to 2000 Bolivianos (from aprox. 100 US$ to aprox. 300 US$). The second aspect being that by means of the Supreme Decree No. 1802 of 20-11-2013, the government gave to workers a second annual gift called “the second bonus” (the first one being the “Christmas bonus”), applied when the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), exceeds 4.5% of a period of 12 months prior to September of each year, whose information will be communicated by the National Statistics Institute in the month of October of each management.

3.7. Environmental Law

This subject is still regulated by the Bolivian Environmental Law No. 1333 of 27-04-1992 and its subsequent regulations. Notwithstanding the year of its approval, the law is in general congruent with the guidelines over the environment protection established in the new Constitution. However, as the new constitutional text grants big importance to the environment, many law-related dispositions have been enacted since 2009. The most important are:

3.8. Telecom, Transport, Electricity, Nuclear Energy, Hydrocarbons and Mining

In this period these sectors received important regulations. In the Telecom sector we have the enactment of the “General Law of Telecommunications, Technologies of Information and Communication” through Law No. 164 of 8-8-2011, with the constitutional objective of ensuring the equitable distribution and the efficient use of the radio electric spectrum. Other important aspects in this sector were:

In the transport sector, the “General Transport Law” was enacted by means of Law No. 165 of 16-8 2011, with the objective of regulating the technical, economic, social and organic aspects of the air, land, rail and water transport based in an integral transport system.

In the Electricity and Nuclear Energy Sectors, besides the nationalization of all the productive electricity chain, through Law No. 290 of 20-09-2012, the national necessity and priority for the installation and supply of electricity for the use and profit of countryside communities was declared, in order to give them access to electricity services. Through the Supreme Decree No. 1948 of 31-3-2014, a “Dignity Tariff” (a 25% discount on the payment of use of electricity for domestic consumers consuming 70kWh) was created. Finally, through the Supreme Decree No. 2399 of 10-6-2015, the government approved the conditions and guidelines for the international exchange of electricity.

The development of Nuclear Energy has also been one of the government’s objectives. That is why through the Supreme Decree No. 2654 of 20-1-2016, it declares the strategic character of the execution of the “Nuclear Bolivian Program”, and by means of the Supreme Decree No. 2697 of 9-3-2016 it creates the “Nuclear Energy Bolivian Agency,” charged with the task of developing nuclear energy in Bolivia.

In the hydrocarbon domain, the government objective was to change the internal matrix of energy to natural gas. That is why the Supreme Decree No. 1996 of 31-3-2014 approved the “Regulations for the Distribution of Natural Gas by Networks.” It is also important to mention the enactment of the Law No. 767 of 11-12-2015, “Law for the Promotion of Investments in Exploration and Exploitation of Hydrocarbons,” that aims to attract investments for the development of unexplored areas. Finally, but not less important, are the specific regulations for the “Defense of Hydrocarbons and Electricity Users and Consumers” approved by the Supreme Decree No. 2337 of 22-4-2015.

Finally, in the Mining sector, it is important to know that between 1967 and 2014 (almost 50 Years) mining in Bolivia had a liberal system of concessions. There were many ways of acquiring mining rights over an area. However, with the new Constitutional framework that governs Bolivia since 7-2-2009 in which natural resources belong not longer to the State but to the Bolivian people, the system of concessions for natural resources was left without effect. Therefore, the Constitution establishes that there are no more concessions but only contracts and that all the "mining concessions" granted to national and foreign companies will have to be adapted to the new provisions of the Constitution. That is why since 2010, by means of Supreme Decree No. 726 of 6-12- 2010, the “Special Transitory Authorizations” (ATE as called in Spanish) were in force instead of the proprietary rights over mining areas. Those ATE´s must then be adapted to the new legislation through the signature of “Mining Administrative Contracts.”

In 2014, the “Law of Mining and Metallurgy” was approved by means of Law No. 535 of 28-5-2014, replacing the former Mining Code that was in force since 1997. That new Law regulates the mining sector in accordance with the new Constitution, giving more details about the adaptation from mining concessions to "Administrative Mining Contracts".

After, by means of the Law No. 845 of 24-10-2016, the government approved the reversion to the State of the mining areas that were developed by means of a joint venture agreements signed between cooperatives and private companies. As a consequence, by means of the Supreme Decree No. 2994 of 23-11-2016 the government approved the procedure for the subscription of “Mining Production Contracts” in the areas destined to the State Mining Company “COMIBOL.”

3.9. Health, Education, Sport and Social

3.9.1. In the Sector of Health

The following legal dispositions have been issued between 2009 and 2017:

3.9.2. In the Educational Sector

The Law of Education No. 70 of 20-12-2010 was approved, regulating the Bolivian education as a constitutional right and as the primary function of the State that has to be integral, non-colonialist, anti-imperialist, transformer of economic and social structures, communitarian, democratic, universal, plural, laic, intra-cultural, inter-cultural, plurilingual and scientific. The Law recognizes the educational system composed by public, private institutions and international agreement ones. It states that education in Bolivia is mandatory through high school and that public education is free until the superior level.

3.9.3. In the Sports Sector

The Government has enacted “the National Sport Law” regulated by means of the Supreme Decree No. 3116 of 15-3-2017 aiming to regulate the constitutional right to sport and to promote the physical culture as well as the sports practice in Bolivia.

3.9.4. In the Social Sector

Various legal dispositions have been approved. That is the case of:

3.10. Banking

In the banking sector through Law No. 331 of 27-12-2012, the “Banco Union S.A.” was appointed as the Public Banking Entity with the purpose of centralizing the financial operations and services of all the public administration.

As well through Law No. 393 of 21-08-2013 was enacted the Law of Financial Services with the objective of regulating: a) the financial intermediation activities; b) the financial services supply; c) the organization of financial entities; d) the protection of financial consumers and e) the participation of the State as the guide of the financial system surveying the universality of the financial services and orienting its performance to the development of the social and economic policies of the State.

3.11. Judicial

This is the sector who mostly felt the transition period originated after the enactment of the Constitution.

Indeed, Law No. 3 of 13-2-2010 declared the temporality of work for all judicial institutions belonging to the “Republic”. Those were supposed to last until the 1-1-2011 in order to be replaced by the new ones created by the new Constitution. However, the former judicial institutions last effectively until the 2-1-2012 according to Law No. 212 of 23-12-2011. And it is from the 3-1-2012 that the new judicial institutions start working under the new legal framework.

From other side through Laws No. 25 and No. 27 of 24-06-2010 and 6-7-2010 respectively, were approved the “Law of the Judicial Organ” and the “Law of the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal” regulating their structure and competences.

As well the “Law of Jurisdictional Demarcation” has been approved through Law No. 73 of 29-12-2010, aiming to regulate the limits of the indigenous jurisdiction, establishing the coordination mechanisms between it and the ordinary jurisdiction.

From other part it is important to say that Law No. 212 of 23-12-2011 established the free access to justice eliminating the payment of all forms and securities.

Finally, it is important to mention the enactment of the “Code of Constitutional Proceedings” by means of Law No. 254 of 5-7-2012, aiming to regulate constitutional processes before the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal and the constitutional defense actions before the judicature.

3.12. Immigration and Tourism

In this sector, Law No. 370 of 08-05-2013 approved the “Immigration Law,” aiming to regulate the entrance, the transit, the stay and the exit of persons within the State territory assuring them their rights according to the constitution and to the international human rights treaties. This Law has been regulated by means of the Supreme Decree 1923 of 12-3-2014 that establishes new regulations over visas, permanence, naturalization, as well as obligations for transport operators and lodging.

From other side, enacted was the Law No. 292 of 25-09-2012 called the “General Law for Tourism ‘Bolivia awaits You’,” aiming to promote both internal tourism (in order to reaffirm the Bolivian identity) and the receptive one (in order to show the country and to revalue the natural and cultural Bolivian patrimony).This law has been regulated by means of the Supreme Decree No. 2609 of 25-11-2015. Complementing those legal instruments Law No. 867 of 12-12-2016 created the “Fund for the Promotion of Tourism,” formed by a special contribution to impulse the Bolivian destiny to the international market.

3.13. International

In this sector was enacted the Law No.401 of 18-09-2013 “Law for Treaties Celebration.” It establishes the proceeding for the celebration of international treaties. Two kinds of treaties are recognized:

Finally, this law establishes that the “dispute resolution” cases involving Bolivia have to be subject to the Bolivian laws and jurisdiction.

From other part we have to mention the following enacted legislation:

3.14. The Defense and Security of the State

In this specific area, we have to mention the following legislation:

4. Bolivian Primary and Secondary Legal Materials

The Bolivian legal system has as its principal sources:

4.1. Primary Legal Materials

In Bolivia primary legal materials are composed of laws and decrees that may be found at the following official web pages:

4.2. Secondary Legal Materials

Secondary legal materials such as decisions issued by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal may be found at the following web pages:

4.3. Other Useful Links

The web page of the Plurinational State of Bolivia: It is the official site of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. It has a complete list of useful links. Visitors will find the links to institutions of the Executive branch (Presidency; Vice Presidency, Ministries; and others); as well as links to the Legislative, Judicial and Electoral Branches. It has as well a complete reference to private and public universities in Bolivia. The web page offers a complete list of links with State Agencies, State Companies, Bolivian Newspapers, TV networks, radios, statistics, Police, Municipal institutions, and tourism information. Finally, the web page offers a direct link with the Official Gazette which has a law search engine. The Consultation of the web page is highly recommended and is free.