Reconstruction and the Rule of the Conservatives

Reconstruction and the Rule of the Conservatives

The Conservatives ruled Bolivia from 1880 until 1899. General Campero completed his legal term in office and presided over free elections in 1884 that brought to power Gregorio Pacheco Leyes (1884-88), one of Bolivia's most important mine owners. After Pachecho's term, however, fraudulent elections resulted repeatedly in Liberal revolts. Although the Liberal Party was allowed to participate in the National Congress (hereafter, Congress), it had no chance to win a presidential election.

Under the Conservatives, the high world price of silver and increased production of copper, lead, zinc, and tin combined to create a period of relative prosperity. The Conservative governments encouraged the mining industry through the development of a rail network to the Chilean coast. The growth of commercial agriculture, such as the development of Bolivia's natural rubber resources, also contributed to an apparently stronger economy. Agricultural production in the highlands increased as the haciendas expanded in some regions.

Aniceto Arce Ruz (1888-92), although elected legally, was an autocrat who managed to stay in power only through repression. His main economic accomplishment was to extend the AntofagastaCalama Railroad to Oruro. The extension of the railroad drastically reduced the cost of transporting minerals to the Pacific Coast. Economic growth was skewed, however, as railroads that were built to export minerals started to bring imported wheat from Chile; in 1890 Chilean wheat was cheaper in La Paz than wheat from Cochabamba. The open economy also hurt local industry. The expansion of the haciendas at the expense of the free Indian communities resulted in numerous uprisings and forced many Indians to work for their landlords or to migrate to the cities. As a result of this migration, the census of 1900 noted an increase of the mestizo population, but Bolivia remained a predominantly Indian and rural nation, in which the Spanishspeaking minority continued to exclude the Indians.

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