Miners woe in Bolivia
By Jhanisse Vaca Daza
Sept 10, Sucre: Six deaths resulted from clashes between government forces and miners members of cooperatives in Panduro, Bolivia on Thursday August 25th.
Mining groups held a strike and blockade since August 10th demanding, among other things, more investment and modifications to current mining laws to allow investment of private companies. Three miners were killed in the confrontations: SeverinoIchota, Fermin MamaniAspeti and Ruben Araya Pillco. Violence escalated following local media reports that the first miner death was a result of police shootings. As aretaliatory measure, miners kidnapped Deputy Minister of Interior Rodolfo Illanes who had been sent to negotiate with miners earlier that day.
During the kidnapping the Minister of Interior communicated with press and asked his superiors to install progressive dialogue with mining groups, as well as asking his family to remain calm since he was being protected by the miners. However he was later tortured and killed by miners as reports of a third miner death by police shots reached the news. State-run media reports Mr. Illanes’ body was found at 1am the next day.
In subsequent press statements Morales deemed the event as the government having “once more defeated a coup.” Bolivian President Evo Morales denounced claims that government-led police were the cause of the violence, indicating he gave no orders to open fire against protesters. Morales named the late Deputy Minister of Interior a “hero of natural resources” and placed blame for the violent uprising on opposition right-wing groups and media outlets. Police imprisoned more than a dozen after the Deputy Minister’s body was found, while no authorities have been identified as directly responsible for the deaths of the three miners. During the following days, two more miners died as consequence of wounds received during the clashes.
Bolivian laws consistently fail to identify those responsible for killing protesting citizens in protests. A number of protests have resulted in civilian death without penalization of police and government entities. Among the most fatal are Cochabamba, September 2007, Sucre, November 2007 and Caranavi, May 2010.
Placing blame on news media and opposition groups is not atypical of competitive authoritarian regimes. The president’s reaction to the mining strikes and successive deaths reveals striking similarities to stances taken by Venezuelan and Ecuadorian presidents Nicolas Maduro and Rafael Correa in wake of civil uprising.
In recent dates, two videos have surfaced showing Minister Illanes surrounded by miners while communicating via phone-call with government officials. The first video was posted on the Facebook page of exiled-journalist Carlos Valverde Bravo, who is currently in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a consequence, the Interior Minister Carlos Romero indicated that said journalist may be linked to the miner groups and is part of a “conspiracy” against the government. The second video was released by ATB News Channel, and includes footage of the late Minister Illanespleading for help on the phone to the aforementioned Interior Minister Carlos Romero, who had previously denied contact with the deceased on the date of the events.
Investigations continue as the President has announced documents regarding a planned coup might be linked to events that transpired at the miner protest. On recent press conferences, the Communication Minister MarianelaPaco denounced attempts of “concealment, conspiracy and coup” by the opposition groups and media outlets, showing tweets from several opposition leaders as “evidence”. An investigation ought to follow to determine who gave orders to use fire against the miners, although it is unlikely to bare any fruit in a country where deaths of protesters have become almost normal news.
The Oslo Times International News Network