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Title page for ETD etd-03272011-113624

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Voth, Hillary
URN etd-03272011-113624
Title From Jach'a Mallku to Alcalde: The Tensions Between Liberal Democracy and Indigenous Autonomy in Bolivia
Degree Master of Arts
Department Latin American Studies
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Jonathan Hiskey Committee Chair
Miriam Shakow Committee Member
  • Evo Morales
  • Indigenous rights
  • Indigenous autonomy
  • Bolivia
  • Democracy
Date of Defense 2011-04-21
Availability unrestricted
This thesis examines the impact of the recent recognition of indigenous autonomy in Bolivia on democracy in that country. Over the past several decades, the Bolivian central government has attempted to improve the quality of democracy in the country through reforms aimed at political decentralization and the inclusion of indigenous citizens, the country’s largest, historically marginalized group. In that spirit, President Evo Morales ratified Bolivia’s newest constitution in 2009, which legalizes self-determination for indigenous communities, upholding their right to define their own local political, economic and judicial systems. Nevertheless, this reform has failed to deepen democracy in the country for two reasons. First, there are inherent tensions between indigenous political systems and liberal democracy. Second, indigenous autonomy has been implemented in a top-down fashion in Bolivia, a process from which indigenous peoples were largely excluded.

While I argue that indigenous political systems must undergo several modifications to make them more democratic, these changes should be born out of serious dialogue between the state and indigenous communities, instead of being imposed from above without heeding the observations of indigenous actors. However, in Bolivia, the latter was the case. Thus, I argue, indigenous autonomy has reinforced the marginalization of indigenous peoples in Bolivia, diminishing the quality of democracy.

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