The Bolivian deputy interior minister has been kidnapped and beaten to death by striking miners, government officials said on Friday, the UK Independent reports.
Rodolfo Illanes, 56, had been dispatched to negotiate with the miners outside the country’s capital, La Paz, but was seized on Thursday. While being held, he spoke to a Bolivian radio station, telling them the miners were demanding the government negotiate new legislation with them to secure his release.
According to Reuters, however, Mr Illanes’s body was found early on Friday morning, wrapped in a blanket by the side of a highway connecting La Paz to the city of Oruro. He had died of repeated blows to the head. Bolivian interior minister Carlos Romero said “all indications” were that he had died as the result of a “cowardly and brutal murder”.
Tensions between the government of President Evo Morales and the country’s miners spilled into violence this week when negotiations broke down following a weeks-long strike. The National Federation of Mining Co-operatives of Bolivia said it would begin an indefinite protest.
The country has some 100,000 independent miners working in self-managed cooperatives, but the demonstrators are demanding the right to work for private companies, broader union representations, a loosening of environmental restrictions and other concessions.
On Wednesday, two protesters were reportedly shot dead by police. The miners had blockaded a highway in Panduro around 100 miles from La Paz, though the blockade was lifted on Friday after Mr Illanes’s death.
Speaking on national television, the country’s defence minister Reymi Ferreira became emotional, saying Mr Morales was “profoundly affected” by the killing. More than 100 people had been arrested, he added, insisting: “This crime will not go unpunished.”
Mr Morales, himself a former farmer, nationalised Bolivia’s mines when he assumed power in 2006, rerouting the profits to anti-poverty efforts. But the labour unions who originally considered him an ally have since become sceptical amid claims of government corruption.
Announcing a three-day period of mourning on Friday, Mr Morales said: “Our natural resources belong to the people, which is why I call brother Illanes a hero in the defense of our natural resources.”
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