Since the Spanish conquest of the New World, the systematic dehumanization of indigenous communities has been part of a culture of economic exploitation and ethnic discrimination against indigenous peoples such as the Aymara, Quechua, and Guarani. In Bolivia, indigenous people successfully resisted the efforts to undermine their cultural identities. As a result, Bolivia is one of the most indigenous countries in the world and its indigenous cultures are one of its greatest assets. Despite this reality, indigenous people have been marginalized and discriminated against in a country that has embraced ethnic stereotypes regarding the supposed “superiority” of people of Spanish descent. This has created conditions of intense ethnic and political conflicts which have been resolved both by peaceful means and by extreme forms of violence

Bolivia has faced increased political and ethnic conflicts since the resignation of Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales Ayma. The Bolivian crisis is an example of the fragility of Latin American political systems and leadership. As a result of the mediation efforts of several entities—including the United Nations; the European Union; and the Catholic Church—a peaceful resolution of the Bolivian conflict was reached by an agreement of all parties to organize new presidential elections.

This article analyzes the historical reasoning for Bolivia’s intense ethnic and political conflicts and the potential for more violent struggles. It suggests that it is essential to prevent the escalation of deeply rooted ethnic conflicts that can destabilize the Bolivian society. To accomplish this objective, this article proposes normative solutions, including the use of language from international human rights law in processes for peaceful resolutions and prevention of ethnic and political conflicts. Finally, this writing addresses the functions of international organizations—including the Organization of American States, and other entities—in current and future mediation efforts in Bolivia, while highlighting the importance of implementing human rights norms to prevent future violent ethnic conflicts.