Civil resistance against military dictatorships: People power in Bolivia


  • Reynaldo Tapia John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY)


civil resistance, nonviolent action, military dictatorships, re-democratization, people power


Civil resistance has had a crucial role in promoting social, political, and economic change throughout the world.  During the period of dictatorships in South America, civil resistance through the use of nonviolent methods was implemented by Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo) to address human rights violations, which eventually led to campaigns to demand democracy in Argentina. The military dictatorship of Pinochet in Chile also fell to the nonviolent campaigns and people power movements. Bolivia presents another case on the effectiveness of civil resistance against not only military dictatorships but also to demand the comeback of democracy. This article examines how civil resistance was implemented in Bolivia during the period of military dictatorships from 1964 to 1982. Once in power, the military dictatorships began to target workers and their union leaders, student organizations and leftist politicians driving them underground and into exile. State violence was used to repress opposition groups from all sectors and even the press. Security forces to include paramilitary groups were behind a series of kidnappings, tortures and killing of activists.  To curb the state violence, union workers, miners, indigenous/campesino group, political leaders, and university students began a series of coordinated nonviolent methods, such as hunger strikes, road blockades, mass protests and marches. This article describes the benefits and outcomes of civil resistance showing how these nonviolent techniques and strategies were used to fight against military dictatorships and led the country back onto the path of re-democratization.


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