9. Bolivia: Political exploitation
Bolivia has a long history of extractive institutions dating back to Spanish times -- a history that has brewed resentment over the years. In 1952, Bolivians rose up en masse against the traditional elite of land and mine owners. The leaders of this revolution were mostly urbanites excluded from power and patronage under the previous regime. Once they seized power, the revolutionaries expropriated most of the land and the mines and created a political party, the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR). Inequality fell sharply at first as a result of these land seizures, as well as the MNR's educational reforms. But the MNR set up a one-party state and gradually rescinded the political rights it had extended in 1952. By the late 1960s, inequality was actually higher than it had been before the revolution.
For the great mass of rural Bolivians, one elite had simply replaced another in what German sociologist Robert Michels called the "iron law of oligarchy." Rural people still had insecure property rights and still had to sell their votes for access to land, credit, or work. The main difference was that instead of providing these services to the traditional landowners, they now provided them to the MNR.