Pathetic Confrontation between Bolivian mine workers and cooperative miners.

Jose Pinto, ALAI, La Paz, Oct 6, 2006-10-09

Bolivia is in mourning: the mine workers, the historic axis of the Bolivian popular movement, have broken out in a painful internal confrontation – which has still not ended – in the locality of Huanuni, in the department of Potosi.

At the moment of writing this note, violence and unrest predominate in Huanuni. Whilst the families watch and prepare to bury the dead, the dynamite explosions continue to come from the sectors in battle: on one side, the waged workers from the Mining Corporation of Bolivia (COMIBOL) and on the other side, the members of the mining cooperatives, both fighting for control of the mine located in the Posokoni hill, whose value has increased substantially as a consequence of the variations in price of minerals in the international market.

The basis of the conflict originated more than 20 years ago with the structural adjustment measures imposed by the Supreme Decree 21060 in 1985 and subsequent devices that order the closure of COMIBOL’s mining operation, of the Mining Bank of Bolivia, the National Fund for Mining Exploration and the Institute of Mining Metallurgical Investigations.

Such generalised subjugation of the business activities of the state, forced the transference of the productive operations of COMIBOL to the private sector. The social cost was very intense and it is calculated that more then 30,000 mining and metallurgical workers were “relocated” (expelled from the workplace). With COMIBOL reduced to its minimum expression, mining cooperatives and small mining emerged.

Since then the conflict has remained latent. Successive governments gave priority to foreign investment in the deposits. Meanwhile the cooperatives and waged workers of COMIBOL in Huanuni and other adjacent mining areas continued to work in deplorable conditions and security.

But, since 2003, 2004 the increase in prices of minerals generated differences and put into conflict interests over acceding control of some mines, The cooperative miners demanded that they be given various concessions and did not doubt in taking them by force.

During the electoral campaign, waged and cooperative miners backed the candidature of MAS.

The cooperative miners had a more outstanding role, to the point that one of their leaders was designated as Minster for Mining, a position that served them in deepening their demands. The tension could not be controlled and the situation reached its limit which has Bolivians mourning.

History has always recognised Bolivian mine workers as the vanguard of national interests, for which they were victims of innumerable episodes of repression.

Now they have clashed between themselves and their blood is already serving as motive for the voices of the right wing opposition and the radical union leadership to appear, who attempt to yield gains from the social drama and the just expectations of those who through their work have sustained the Bolivian economy.

The government of Evo Morales and the Movement Towards Socialism has in front of it, the biggest social and political challenge since the moment in which its term started.

Translated from America Latina en Movimiento

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