A popular coalition built around indigenous Indians, power workers, peasants and civil movements - including trade unions and radical Catholics - has erupted against years of poverty and inequality in one of Latin America's poorest countries.
Bolivian capital La Paz today remains at a virtual standstill, as the country awaits the outcome of a congress meeting being held 200 miles away in Sucre, following the deposition of President Carlos Meza this week.
In the1980s Bolivia was seen as an exemplar of the Western-backed strategy of combining US-friendly democracy with free markets to tackle underdevelopment. But the International Monetary Fund's policy of making international support conditional on the privatisation of key utilities backfired badly.
Ordinary Bolivians, especially the indigenous majority (including Incan and Aymaran peoples) suffered worsening hardship under IMF-led policies as the gap between rich and poor grew still further.
Bolivia has a history of political instability. There have been 200 coups or revolutions since Simon Bolivar led the country to independence from colonial rulers Spain in 1825.
However established revolutionary groups have not enjoyed support among the sometimes deeply religious Indian population, who often combine Catholicism with traditional religion.
The protest coalition is mainly rallied behind Evo Morales, the senate deputy who leads a broad left-wing Movement Towards Socialism with a power base among coca-leaf farmers, miners and other trade unionists.
Observers note that the rallying cry of the movement echoes that of protestors against neo-liberalism across the world in the run up to July's Gleneagles G8 summit of the world's richest nations.
Mr Morales is calling for immediate elections. He has denounced attempts by the US, landowners and an industry leader to impose globalisation on Bolivia - which he says means economic policies that marginalize and exclude most of its population.
The ruling elite appears to back the presidential claim of Hormando Vaca Diez, a lawyer and landowner. Outgoing President Meza's warning about imminent social collapse is being used by those who oppose the protestors to argue against a poll.
Opposition leaders have meanhile vowed to continue to build political pressure.
As part of the revolt hundreds of peasants in eastern Santa Cruz province blockaded roads and entrances to halt production at three natural gas fields operated by Spain's Repsol and another operated by British Petroleum.
In 1999 an international conference on grassroots Catholic movements was held in Bolivia, though the Church there remains comparatively traditional. Protestant groups have made fewer inroads than in other parts of Latin America.