The Bolivia Reader: History, Culture, Politics
In the aftermath of the revolution, the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (mnr) confronted dramatic economic diffculties. In January 1955, the government released its Plan inmediato de política económica del Gobierno de la Revolución Nacional, an “immediate plan” to address looming structural challenges. Significantly, the offcial who elaborated and signed the crucial document was the minister of foreign affairs, Wálter Guevara Arze, rather than the minister of finance, as might be expected. The document sought to meet two objectives: first, to justify to the United States that its financial and technical assistance was necessary; second, to provide guidance to the fledgling government’s own functionaries.
The challenge was for Bolivia to overcome its heavy reliance on mineral exports and to diversify economically. The country would be perpetually in deficit unless it could boost petroleum exports, rather than rely on agricultural and energy imports. The immediate plan proposed to do precisely this, with joint Bolivian-U.S. funding, through a march to the east—that is, by developing the lowland region of Santa Cruz. Key to the process was to develop a new road network linking Cochabamba and Santa Cruz and to promote agrarian colonization through foreign (European and Japanese) immigration and the coordinated migration of highland and valley peasants. The program thus met long-standing eastern regional demands for attention and resources, and fulfilled the aspirations of administrators, going back to the late-colonial Bourbon period, to colonize the lowlands. By providing the necessary capital, resources, and assistance for this transition, the United States quickly consolidated control over a revolution it had initially seen as a potential threat.