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Bolivian Miners Attack State Mine HQ with Dynamite

Around 100 jobless tin miners attacked Bolivia's state mining company headquarters in downtown La Paz with dynamite on Thursday in the latest episode of unrest in the fragile democracy.
LA PAZ, Bolivia, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Around 100 jobless tin miners attacked Bolivia's state mining company headquarters in downtown La Paz with dynamite on Thursday in the latest episode of unrest in the fragile democracy.

The miners, who have illegally occupied one of the country's main tin mines for the last three months, blasted open the front door to demand the release of their leader from jail before police repelled them with tear gas.

Some 200 people were in the building at the time but there were no injuries reported. Police said they made no arrests.

Edmundo Zogby, spokesman for the state mining company Comibol, said the attack seriously damaged the building's ground floor.

Hours after the incident, a judge ordered the release of miner leader Victor Mena, who was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of stealing from the Caracoles tin mine.

Output at Caracoles, which averages around 1,000 tonnes of tin-in-concentrate per year, has been frozen since May 4, when some 700 miners armed with dynamite took over the mine to demand work and forced out the employees who were there.

The miners' occupation of the Caracoles mine is one more challenge for new President Carlos Mesa, who still needs to consolidate his power despite a crucial victory in a natural gas referendum last month.

Tin miners are at the forefront of social protests in Bolivia, South America's poorest nation and one of the world's top five tin producers. They often use dynamite in clashes with security forces.

Miners played a major role in the bloody protests and roadblocks that brought down the last elected president in October.