Bolivia's last elected president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, survived 16 months in power before being forced to resign. His successor, Carlos Mesa, did better, lasting 20 months. Mesa's successor, Eduardo Rodriguez, will be in power for no more than a few months before new elections result in a fourth president in as many years. Clearly, the art of banking in Bolivia has a lot more to do with managing volatility than with taking advantage of a stable political environment.
Banco Mercantil, it turns out, has been managing extremely well indeed over the past few years. It has been growing steadily and has now overtaken Banco BISA to become the largest privately owned bank in the country, with assets of $545 million on which it made profits of $35 million – the largest in the banking system.