Bolivia Aims to Boost Mining Oversight After Deadly Protests

Ryan Dube reports for The Wall Street Journal:

Bolivia Aims to Boost Mining Oversight After Deadly Protests
Cabinet of President Evo Morales approves measures that would increase regulation, ban use of dynamite in demonstrations.

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Bolivia’s government on Thursday moved to increase control over mining cooperatives in the wake of violent protests that resulted in the killing of a high-ranking government official.

In an emergency meeting, President Evo Morales’s cabinet approved five decrees to strengthen regulations over the cooperatives after claiming that miners tried to overthrow his government during demonstrations last week that left dead four workers and Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illness. [flat-out lie! No one wants to kick him out of the presidency, people voted so he cannot run for another illegal re-re-election, Bolivia lost over $150 billion dollars under his “leadership” and as a good populist, demagogue, he wants us to believe his pitiful excuses!]

The protest was the latest challenge to Mr. Morales, who lost a referendum earlier this year that would have allowed him to run for another term in office.

Officials said Thursday that cooperatives would need to comply with labor regulations, including the right of workers to form unions, and report their annual earnings to authorities. The use of dynamite during protests, which has been common by practice during mining protests in Bolivia, would also be outlawed. [the use of dynamite was forbidden until this very same government allowed, out of hypocrisy and demagogue, now after the dead miners and badly beaten policemen, they retract on their paces …]

Mines Minister César Navarro said the state would take back from cooperatives land that was approved for mining but has yet to be explored. Land concessions awarded to cooperatives that subsequently signed contracts with private companies to operate mines would also be reverted back to the state, he said.

“The true cooperatives will have the security and certainty that they will be able to continue their activities,” Mr. Navarro said in a news conference. “Those that are camouflaged as mining cooperatives and that are practically companies exploiting men and women won’t have that condition.”

Mr. Morales, a harsh critic of the U.S. and an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, has had a complicated and at times contentious relationship with mining cooperatives, a diverse group that arose in the 1980s when workers lost their jobs at state mining companies due to the fall in tin prices and the privatization of operations.

While mine workers have supported Mr. Morales’s left-wing government during elections, they have also organized large protests during his administration. In 2006, shortly after Mr. Morales took office, 16 people were killed during a clash between mining cooperatives and workers at a state-owned tin mine over control of the operation. [at that time, he was looking after votes and rude support to threaten the common citizen, the use of force in road blockades was just an strategy to overthrown the governments of Sanchez de Lozada and Mesa, he used these people to grab the presidency, now that his egocentrism led to believe he is  immortal, he wants to get rid off them]

Today, the cooperatives include an estimated 100,000 workers that mine for silver, lead, zinc and other minerals often in dangerous and abandoned mines high in the Andes. Authorities say other cooperatives run more modern operations that were highly profitable during the commodity boom but resisted government oversight.

“It is really a kind of savage capitalism,” said Eduardo Gamarra, a Bolivian political scientist at Florida International University. “They were engaged in private sector mining but with no regulations whatsoever.”

Efforts to increase regulations have often faced strong opposition. The federation of mining cooperatives, known as Fencomin, held protests last week over government plans to allow workers to unionize and to strengthen environmental regulations. The cooperatives also wanted authorities to ease restrictions on being able to sign contracts with private firms.

The death of Mr. Illanes, whose body was found on the side of a highway, sparked public outrage and led to the arrest of protest leaders, including the president of Fencomin

“Right now their case is significantly weakened,” Kathryn Ledebur, an analyst and executive director of the Andean Information Network in Cochabamba, said of the cooperatives. “The government decrees within the current framework are reasonable. They are taking away some concessions but also providing social benefits and bringing people into the formal work force.”

Mining cooperatives in the state of Oruro announced this week that they would create a pacification committee with the support of the Catholic Church in an attempt to reduce tensions and eventually restart talks with the government over their demands.

But some expect the government’s announcement on Thursday to spark more protests.

“The government is on an offensive to dismantle the power of these groups,” said Roberto Laserna, an economist and president of the Fundacion Milenio research organization in La Paz. “But I don’t think the cooperatives will just remain calm and say, ‘We lost this war, let’s go home.’”

Write to Ryan Dube at

Bolivians continue to die due to the incompetence and cheap demagogue of the coca grower caudillo’s sorry government!

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