Violent takeover of a mine… anarchy under way?

Around 6:00am on Tuesday morning, an estimated mob of 300 campesinos violently occupied a tin mine, “Sayaquira”, in the 5th section of the Inquisivi province, La Paz. This mine belongs to “Minera Barrosquira” Company (Embas). This is not the first time this company loses a mine operation, three years ago “Himalaya” wolfram mine in La Paz was also taken and to date there is no solution.

The following article (Spanish) reports that those 300 violent people arrived in buses, the small police force (35 policemen, of which 10-12 are missing as a result of this confrontation) offered little resistance and was disbanded. The mob started throwing small charges of dynamite to the roofs of the houses of the working miners.

The Executive Secretary for the Federation Union of Working Miners of Bolivia (FSTMB), Guido Mitma, warned yesterday at the press conference that the working miners of will confront the campesinos if the government does not stop this “violent takeovers”.

The President of the National Mining Chamber (Canalmin),  Saturnino Ramos stated “If the government does not enforce order, the workers will defend our jobs,” On November 21, 2010 he denounced that around 201 small, medium mining concessions and coops in Potosí, La Paz, Cochabamba and Oruro were taken over by force by campesinos since 2004. Mine Sayaquira legally operates for about 100 years and 34 years under this new administration. It has 93 workers, produces 9.92 tin metric tons per month and pays in taxes and royalties to the State around $630K annually.

This morning, Panamericana radio reported that the government informed that around 100 policemen were sent to the mine yesterday afternoon. This event escalated in violence since last week. Apparently those campesinos intentions are to create a mining cooperative and push away this private company.

El Dia newspaper reports three injured and 12 missing policemen. The miners’ families reported that in this violent takeover, the campesinos used firearms, knifes, clubs and stones to overthrow the workers:

Pagina Siete newspaper reports ten injured and undetermined number of missing people (including policemen). Reported that about 200 people from neighboring communities at around 5:00am started the takeover. It is estimated that around 500 people who lived there were pushed away. Some miners lost contact with their families and an uncertain number of them is not yet accounted for. Agustin Ramos, the alleged leader of the mob, is reported to have lost his right hand as he misused dynamite, exploding before he could throw it away, he was taken to a hospital in Oruro.

I am sorry for this unnecessary violence, due to unmet expectations. Current government requested political support (votes to get elected) from miners who worked for private, state and coops. Such groups are competitors among themselves and they were offered at the same time conflicting benefits who would operate which mine, etc.) Some years ago, in Huanuni, over 16 people died as a result of clashes among state and coop miners. At that time, vice president was reported as saying the government would send the coffins…

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