Striking Bolivian miners kidnap and beat minister to death
Striking informal miners in Bolivia kidnapped and beat to death the country's deputy government minister after he travelled to the area to mediate in the bitter conflict over mining laws, officials said late Thursday.
Government minister Carlos Romero called it a "cowardly and brutal killing" and asked that the miners turn over the body of deputy minister Rodolfo Illanes.
Earlier, Mr Romero said that Illanes had been kidnapped and possibly tortured, but local media reports that he had been killed by the miners had not been confirmed.
But late on Thursday Mr Romero and defence minister Reymi said that the vice minister of government had been beaten to death by the miners, who are demanding more rights, including the right to associate with private companies.
Illanes had gone to Panduro, a town 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of the La Paz, where the strikers have blockaded a highway since Monday, to open a dialogue. Thousands of passengers and vehicles are stranded on roads blocked by the strikers. The government had earlier said that the 56-year-old Illanes had been kidnapped and was at risk of being tortured.
The strike has turned violent recently with two protesters being killed and riot police failing to clear a highway in a western part of the mining-dependent Andean nation.
"We have been able to see close up that vice-minister Illanes was dead. Colleagues told us that he had died of a beating," Moises Flores, the director of a mining radio station had told local radio.
The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives of Bolivia (FENCOMIN), once strong allies of leftist president Evo Morales, began what they said would be an indefinite protest after negotiations over mining legislation failed.
Protesters have been demanding more mining concessions, the right to work for private companies, and greater union representation.