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Bolivia: Miners’ Dispute Holds La Paz Under Siege

Hundreds of miners from private cooperatives are continuing to block the main access roads to La Paz, Bolivia's seat of Government.

The siege was sparked by a dispute between private cooperative miners from the La Paz Departmental Federation of Mining Cooperatives (Fedecomin in Spanish) and employed miners from the state-run Bolivian Mining Corporation (Comibol in Spanish). Both rival groups are seeking to take control of the zinc and tin Colquiri mine, nationalised from Glencore International by Bolivia’s government in June 2012.

The issue arises from Supreme Decree 1337, signed by President Evo Morales, which guarantees the control of operating activities in the northern part of the mine Colquiri, more precisely the Rosario vein.

The conflict began on the ground after the delimitation of operation areas: Colquiri unionised miners, who are meant to operate in the south, refuse to give the cooperative miners participation. Moreover, unionised miners are blocking the access to the Colquiri mine, 92 miles (149 kilometers) from La Paz.

The government had set up negotiation talks between the rival factions, and it was agreed that the siege would be lifted during the evening of Wednesday, September 12; however, the blockades remain and the miners have issued further threats [es].

Private cooperative miners have been close allies of the government led by left-wing President Evo Morales. This group has declared that the unionised miners, who are also members of the Bolivian Workers’ Center (COB in Spanish), are ‘irreconcilable enemies'.

The blog [es] Videourgente (“urgent video”) posts a video showing demonstrations by unionised miners in La Paz:

According to the Americas Quarterly blog:

President Morales has asked the warring factions to respect each other’s rights: “Both sectors…have constitutional rights and have an obligation to understand each other and work together to exploit the natural resources that are so important for Bolivians.”

However, Eduardo Bowles states [es] in his blog that both miners’ groups are corroding the mining industry and affecting the State's interests:

En este momento, ambos grupos de mineros están haciendo lo que todos los sectores sociales han hecho en la última década: desafiar la autoridad, imponer el principio del caos, violentar las leyes y seguir minando las posibilidades de construir un Estado en Bolivia. La única diferencia es que en esta ocasión ha sido el propio Estado Plurinacional el impulsor de su propia desaparición.

At this point, both groups of miners are doing what all social movements have done in the last decade: defying authority, imposing the principle of chaos, violating the laws and continuing to undermine the possibilities of building a State in Bolivia. The only difference is that this time the Plurinational State itself has been the driver of its own demise.
Note: Read more about mining in Bolivia.

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