Overview of Bolivia
Angie Vega (2018)
Bolivia is a land-locked country located in central-western South America. It is a democratic republic divided into nine departments. The country adopted a new constitution in 2009, which included the right to the environment, and it is the only constitution in South America that specifically addresses animal protection. In 2017, the Constitutional Court changed the presidential term from a consecutive two-term limit to no term limits.
More than 40% of all animal and plant life on planet Earth is located in Bolivia’s tropical rainforests and Pantanal wetlands. Bolivia has a diverse geography. One-third of the country is located in the Andes mountains where it shares the Titicaca Lake - the world’s highest navigable lake - with Peru. Bolivia also has lowlands, which are situated in the Amazon basin and contain one of the largest salt flats. It has habitats ranging from snowy peaks and volcanoes to forests, lowland plains, and deserts. The country also gets over 8000mm of rain on average per year, which makes it one of the wettest countries in the world.
Bolivia also has a cultural heritage as rich as its natural surroundings. Even though Bolivia’s main languages are Spanish, Quechua, Aymara and Guaraní, the country also has 37 official languages. All of them are indigenous.
The constitution expressly protects and promotes the sustainable use of the environment throughout its text, including native flora and fauna and domestic animals. Article 33 establishes the right to live in a protected, healthy, and balanced environment. The purpose of this right is not just guarantee the normal and permanent development of humans, but also other “living beings.” The right to the environment is considered a collective right, which means that any person can exercise the pertinent legal actions for its defense.
Article 108 establishes the protection and defense of the environment as a duty of all persons, which ensures the adequate development of all living beings. In connection with this duty, the government has the responsibility to ensure its preservation and to contribute to the protection of the environment and wildlife. Article 302 gives the municipal governments the responsibility of contributing to the protection of the environment, natural resources, wildlife and domestic animals.
Bolivia granted all nature equal rights to humans in 2010 through Ley 71, also known as “the law for the rights of mother earth." This law gives the environment, or "mother earth" as it is described in the law, and all its components the status of a collective subject of public interest for the purpose of guaranteeing the protection of its rights. Bolivia also has Ley 300, 2012, which is the legal framework for the protection of “mother earth and integral development to leave well." This law sets the parameters to guarantee a harmonious relationship between the development of society and the protection of the environment through the sustainable use of its different components and systems.
The Law for the Defense of Animals against Acts of Cruelty and Mistreatment sees animals as part of “mother earth” and, for that reason, they must be respected and protected against cruelty. This law states that animals have the right to be recognized as living beings. However, the use of animals in traditional medicine practices, use in rites that are governed by customs, and use in indigenous cultures and traditions are exempted, provide they are done in avoidance of unnecessary and prolonged suffering.
Other animal-related laws include prohibitions on the use of wild and/or domestic animals in circuses and the possession of dangerous dogs. In some instances, possession of dangerous dogs may be allowed if prior authorization and licenses are obtained and owners comply with all safety measures.