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Bolivia: Historical Background
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > The Security Forces > Historical Background


Although the marshal of Ayacucho, Antonio José de Sucre Alcalá, had organized the first Bolivian police force on June 24, 1826, the National Police (Policía Nacional) was not established officially until 1886. The Bolivian police became institutionalized on the national level in 1937 with the creation of the National Corps of Carabineers (Cuerpo Nacional de Carabineros) and its professional training school, the Police School (Escuela de Policía), later renamed the National Police Academy (Academia Nacional de Policías). The carabineers constituted a post-Chaco War merger of the Military Police, the Gendarmerie Corps (Cuerpo de Gendarmería), the paramilitary Security Police (Policía de Seguridad), and the army's Carabineer Regiment (Regimiento de Carabineros).

Unlike in most Latin American countries, Bolivia's police forces had always been responsible to the national government rather than to lesser political authorities. The concept of centralized police power is established by the Constitution. The Police Law of 1886 formalized the system that remained in effect throughout the first half of the twentieth century. In 1950 the Organic Law of Police and Carabineers of Bolivia (Law No. 311) revised the police system substantially. Law No. 311 and the 1886 law provide the legal basis for the present-day police system.

Until the 1952 Revolution, the police corps was subordinate to the army and to the Ministry of National Defense. The army assumed most police functions and treated the corps as a reserve to be called on only in times of dire emergency. As a result of its active support of the 1952 Revolution, however, the national police received greater jurisdiction over police affairs and was modernized. It and the carabineers were transferred to the jurisdiction of what was then the Ministry of Interior, which concerned itself exclusively with administrative supervision. Nevertheless, the police resented being commanded by an army officer and having lower status and pay than the military.

Data as of December 1989

Last Updated: December 1989

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Bolivia was first published in 1989. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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