This paper demonstrates that recent protests in Bolivia must be linked to the failure of efforts to improve democratic participation in the country. It argues that such failures can be traced to a history of prejudices in national development and society and persistent biases and contradictions within international development policy and institutions. Despite these obstacles, the paper concludes that ideas for appropriate development and realistic alternatives for change to government and democracy are visible in recent critical development thinking and amongst the different social and cultural groupings involved in the demonstrations.