MAC: Mines and Communities

Bolivian Mining Groups Declare Truce

Published by MAC on 2006-10-06

Bolivian Mining Groups Declare Truce

Associated Press Writer

6th October 2006

(AP) Rival miners' groups agreed to a truce late Thursday after a day of clashes over access to one of South America's richest tin mines left at least nine people dead and 40 injured, a senior official said.

The fight pitted independent miners allied with President Evo Morales against those employed by Bolivia's state mining company.

Hundreds of miners belonging to independent cooperatives stormed the state-owned Huanuni mine, demanding more access to its tin deposits.

State-employed miners counterattacked to regain control of the mine and the groups exchanged gunshots and threw sticks of dynamite.

Public Defender Waldo Albarricin announced late Thursday that the two groups had agreed to stop fighting so both sides could bury their dead.

"The peace agreement comes at the will of workers on both sides," said Albarricin, adding that meetings between the camps will continue Friday morning to negotiate a more permanent agreement.

"What should have been a blessing for the country, to possess such natural riches, today has become a curse," said Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera in a national address Thursday evening.

Linera said nine people had been killed and at least 40 injured.

A team of Bolivia's top ministers arrived in the mining town of Huanuni, 180 miles south of the capital of La Paz, in hopes of negotiating an end to the conflict.

The Bolivian government has declined to mobilize the military in response to the conflict.

"We are still not deploying public forces, and will do so only when it becomes necessary," Morales' chief of staff, Juan Ramon Quintana, told a news conference.

But some angry miners accused Morales, Bolivia's first Indian president, of withholding troops to avoid a confrontation with the independent mining cooperatives that played a key role in the populist movement that helped him win election last December.

"If they will not send the army, then they should send us boxes for our dead," said Pedro Montes, secretary-general of the Central Obrero Boliviano, a nationwide union representing the state-employed miners.

Among the dead were men and one woman representing both groups, as well as a local bus driver, according to media reports.

Morales was elected in December with a mandate to help Bolivia's poor indigenous majority see a larger share of the revenues from the land-locked nations' extensive mineral and natural gas deposits.

The cooperatives strongly backed Morales' campaign last year, and the president has since granted them some concessions at Huanuni.

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