MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Miners strike turns deadly in Bolivia

Published by MAC on 2016-08-29
Source: AP, Reuters

Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes killed by striking mineworkers, the government said

According to EFE, the body of the Interior deputy minister, Rodolfo Illanes, have been recovered. Sources say that three miners were killed in the clashes. The government informed that 17 police officers had been wounded, while up to 100 people have been arrested.

Bolivia accuses mining leader and two others of minister's murder

Daniel Ramos

Reuters -

Aug 27, 2016

Bolivia on Saturday formally accused three miners of the murder of Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes this week, including the president of the federation that had organized protests and a roadblock.

The killing of Illanes, who was found beaten to death after being kidnapped on Thursday by miners demanding changes in the law, has shocked Bolivia and presented leftist President Evo Morales with one of his greatest challenges since taking power in 2006.

The public prosecutor accused three miners of the murder, including Carlos Mamani, the president of the National Federation of Mining Cooperatives of Bolivia.

Last week, the group blocked a highway linking capital La Paz with the city of Oruro. At least two miners were killed and 17 police injured in clashes, and the government said Illanes had approached the protesters to attempt dialogue.

The miners, who work in co-operatives rather than for private companies, have been hit by the global commodities downturn and were demanding that the government relax environmental restrictions and increase subsidies.

Mamani, who was arrested on Friday, was formally accused of murder, aggravated robbery, criminal organization, possession of firearms and attacking members of state security.

A hearing will be held this weekend.

The roadblock has been abandoned and the protests have ended, authorities said.


Morales described the protests as a "political conspiracy" against his government, carried out with backing from the right-wing opposition.

"Now we are getting information and finding documents that say this is to take down the government," he told a news conference.

Opposition leaders denied any involvement.

"We ask the president in this sad hour not to weave false conspiracy theories," said ex-president Jorge Quiroga.

The government has ruled out talks with the miners and asked for the maximum 30-year jail sentence for those found guilty.

Ex-coca grower Morales is one of the last leaders left standing from South America's once-dominant populist leftist bloc.

His policies to redistribute the wealth of a natural gas windfall and empower once marginalized groups won him many admirers in the early years. More recently his government has been dogged by accusations of cronyism, while it has struggled to keep up with supporters' demands at a time when incomes are tight.

Illanes, 56, was a long-time Morales ally appointed as deputy minister in March. His funeral will take place on Sunday in La Paz.

(Writing by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Bolivia says deputy interior minister killed after kidnap by miners

Daniel Ramos

Reuters -

Aug 26, 2016

Bolivian Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes was beaten to death after he was kidnapped by striking mineworkers on Thursday, the government said, and up to 100 people have been arrested as authorities vowed to punish those responsible.

"At this present time, all the indications are that our deputy minister Rodolfo Illanes has been brutally and cowardly murdered," Minister of Government Carlos Romero said in broadcast comments.

He said Illanes had gone to talk to protesters earlier on Thursday in Panduro, around 160 km (100 miles) from the capital, La Paz, but was intercepted and kidnapped by striking miners.

The government was trying to recover his body, Romero said, in a case that has shocked Bolivians.

Defence Minister Reymi Ferreira broke down on television as he described how Illanes, appointed to his post in March, had apparently been "beaten and tortured to death".

Illanes' assistant had escaped and was being treated in a hospital in La Paz, he said.

"This crime will not go unpunished. Authorities are investigating ... around 100 people have been arrested," Ferreira said.

Protests by miners in Bolivia demanding changes to laws turned violent this week after a highway was blockaded. Two workers were killed on Wednesday after shots were fired by police. The government said 17 police officers had been wounded.

The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives of Bolivia, once strong allies of leftist President Evo Morales, began what they said would be an indefinite protest after negotiations over mining legislation failed.

Protesters have been demanding more mining concessions with less stringent environmental rules, the right to work for private companies, and greater union representation.

The vast majority of miners in Bolivia, one of South America's poorest countries, work in cooperatives, scraping a living producing silver, tin and zinc. There are few foreign-owned mining firms, unlike in neighboring Peru and Chile.

Natural gas accounts for roughly half of Bolivia's total exports. Ex-coca grower Morales nationalized Bolivia's resources sector after taking power in 2006, initially winning plaudits for ploughing the profits into welfare programs and boosting development.

However, his government has been dogged by accusations of cronyism and authoritarianism in recent years, and even the unions who were once his core support have soured on him as falling prices have crimped spending.

(Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Sandra Maler and Paul Tait)

Official: Striking miners kill deputy minister in Bolivia

AP -

August 26, 2016

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Striking miners in Bolivia kidnapped and beat to death the country's deputy interior minister after he traveled to the area to mediate in the bitter conflict over mining laws, officials said.

Government Minister Carlos Romero called it a "cowardly and brutal killing" and asked that the body of deputy minister Rodolfo Illanes be turned over to authorities.

Illanes, whose formal title is vice minister of the interior regime, was "savagely beaten" to death by the striking miners, Defense Minister Reymi Ferreira told Red Uno television, his voice breaking.

Earlier, Romero had said that Illanes had been kidnapped and possibly tortured, but wasn't able to confirm reports that he had been killed by the striking informal miners, who are demanding the right to associate with private companies, among other issues.

The fatal beating follows the killings of two protesters in clashes with police, deaths that likely escalated tensions in the strike.

Illanes had gone to Panduro, 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of the La Paz, to open a dialogue with the striking miners, who have blockaded a highway there since Monday. Thousands of passengers and vehicles are stranded on roads blocked by the strikers.

Officials say he was taken hostage by the miners on Thursday morning. At midday, Illanes said on his Twitter account: "My health is fine, my family can be calm." There are reports that he had heart problems.

Bolivia's informal or artisan miners number about 100,000 and work in self-managed cooperatives. They want to be able to associate with private companies, which is prohibited. The government argues that if they associate with multinational companies they would cease to be cooperatives.

The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives of Bolivia, once strong allies of President Evo Morales, went on an indefinite protest after negotiations over the mining legislation failed.

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