Bolivia Miners' Strike is a Minefield
The Bolivian Miners' protest has faced a lot of heavy violence in recent days, the most prominent being the reported murder of Bolivian Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes. This protest has been of wide concern in Bolivia, especially since early August.
The Bolivian government, as reported by Telesur, is in fear that the miners' strike is too heavily armed and is destroying the transport routes of the nation. In fact, the government criticizes the strike for being riotous, destroying property, injuring law enforcement, and allowing for abductions.
Interior Minister Carlos Romero has described the miner's strike and murder as "cowardly and brutal".
Why are the miners violently protesting?
The Bolivian miners have organized, albeit destructively, due to their loss of power in mining legislation in Bolivia. Until recently, the miners and their mining cooperatives held political power, holding charge and jurisdiction over the Bolivian Vice Ministry of Mining. This post has since then switched into the government's custody, detracting from collective mining's political capital.
Moreover, Bolivia miners have been very vocal in their desires to increase trade, production, and profit. The structure of Bolivian mining currently focuses on self-governed and local cooperatives. These unfortunately feel to the miners to have reached maximum capacity, plateauing in growth. Due to this, Bolivian miners want to be able to grow their profits via commercial associations.
The Bolivian government prohibits mining from linking themselves with private mining businesses and corporations via partnerships of any form. According the government, it destroys the very fabric of economic cooperatives if they were to work with big business and big business's infrastructure.
Because of this, Bolivian miners tried a variety of actions. The actual reason why the protests have gone brutally violent are relatively unknown, but I would warrant with violence in protests comes a feeling of desperation.
In early August, the Bolivian miners had enough of feeling as if their pleas were being unheard. Thus, the miners created a much larger scale protest to gain movement.
Heavily armed and weaponized, the Bolivian mining collectives decided to blockade major highways and government departments. The miners by doing so managed to block away many of the important routes from Cochabamba to La Paz. The only way the miner's are willing to ease these blockades is if the government agrees to open up a dialogue and compromise with the cooperatives.
It seems that the government was willing to talk to the mining cooperatives, announcing a response to the National Federation of Mining Cooperatives. Unfortunately this came after reciprocal imprisonments from both sides and constant condemning by President Morales that the entire situation and the demands were unconstitutional.
Despite this, the union after days of violent fights with police, were willing to remove the blockade in hopes of making amends and gaining concessions from the Bolivian government. Thanks to this, the miners released about 50 policemen in exchange for their fellow miners.
As of this easing, there were a grand total (from both sides) of around 320 injured,.
So Then Why Murder?
It appears that these peace negotiations and talks about compromise have fallen through.
The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives has resumed protest, with highly riotous elements, citing that President Morales's government has failed to properly negotiate. In this sense, the miners felt their cries for greater representation and the ability to partner with the private sector were just not being heard.
Because of this, a riotous and extreme sect of the protesters kidnapped and abducted the Deputy Interior Minister Illanes: the only condition for his release being proper negotiations between the two parties over mining legislation.
It has become clear, especially since the news is just coming out and is all relatively new, that the Bolivian government is trying to keep the situation's details out of the public.
Illanes was captured earlier this week and after torture was beaten to death, as described and reported by Defense Minister Ferreira and Interior Minister Romero.
This lines up with the trend of increasing violence, when previously two miners were killed and tear gas and heavy weaponry are being utilized.