The fact that even the moderate and broadly respected president Carlos Mesa was forced to step down in Bolivia in June 2005 suggests that the country's crisis goes beyond a conflict on specific policies. A longstanding practice of excluding large sectors of the population from all real influence in politics, despite the existence of formal democracy, has produced a crisis of belief in democracy, affecting both governing bodies and the party system. President Mesa was unable to reverse the generalised distrust of politics. This distrust, combined with persisting political stalemate, is currently tending towards societal disintegration, which makes the recovery of genuine democratic practices even more difficult. © The Author 2006 Journal Compilation © 2006 Society for Latin American Studies.