Economic turmoil in Bolivia fuels distrust in government and its claim of a 'failed coup'

Bolivia, a small South American nation, is currently experiencing an economic crisis due to a long-standing hyper-dependence on the U.S. dollar and a recent shortage of the currency. This has been further complicated by political tensions between President Luis Arce and his former ally, ex-President Evo Morales, ahead of next year’s presidential election.

The economic downturn has severely affected businesses like Victor Vargas’ shoe shop in La Paz. Vargas, a 45-year-old shop owner, recounted how his shop, once bustling with customers, is now empty, leading him to put up signs offering to buy dollars in a desperate attempt to keep his family business afloat.

The crisis has resulted in a black market for dollars, with many Bolivians bringing in greenbacks from neighboring countries and selling them at inflated prices. This has led to skyrocketing prices for essentials like cars parts, meat, and clothing, pushing working-class people deeper into poverty.

The shortage of dollars has also affected jobs and wages, with many Bolivians struggling to make ends meet. Edwin Cruz, a truck driver, for instance, spends hours waiting in long lines for diesel and gasoline due to intermittent shortages caused by a lack of foreign currency.

The crisis has been exacerbated by ongoing political feuds between Arce and Morales. Despite Arce’s claims that Bolivia’s economy is “one of the most stable,” many Bolivians, including Vargas, believe the president should focus more on addressing the economic crisis and less on political stunts.

The political tension has led to waves of protests and strikes, further hurting businesses like Vargas’ as customers avoid travel due to the chaos of ubiquitous protests. Morales, who still wields significant power in Bolivia, has been accused of using political attacks to block Arce’s government from passing measures to ease the economic turmoil.

Despite the challenges, there is a small window for an outsider to gain traction, as discontent has opened up opportunities for change, similar to what has happened with outsiders in neighboring Latin American countries. The economic crisis in Bolivia shares many similarities with the current situation in Argentina, where self-described “anarcho-capitalist” Javier Milei has recently taken office with promises to lift the country out of its economic spiral.

Vargas, who has four children, laments that they all want to leave Bolivia due to the lack of future opportunities in the country. With no short-term solutions in sight, the future looks bleak for businesses like Vargas’ and the Bolivian people who are struggling to survive the economic crisis.

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