Bolivia: mining engineers "kidnapped" by Aymara comunarios

Aymara comunarios (communal pesants) from the pueblos of Karikari and Calachaca, in Bolivia's Potosí department, on June 28 seized two engineers at the local Malku Khota mining operation, owned by South American Silver of Canada, to press their demand for the release of their leader Cancio Rojas, who was arrested late last month on charges related to protests against the mine project. A South American Silver statement said the two men had been "kidnapped," and that they are "at serious risk given the aggressiveness and intolerance with which these groups behave." Interior Minister Carlos Romero also said, "What they have done is a kidnapping, it's an offense, it's a crime." He added that Cancio Rojas "is detained by the order of a competent judicial authority because he is accused of kidnapping, torture and other offenses."

Compañia Minera Malku Khota, the subsidiary, says most of the aylllus (kinship landholdings) in the area support the project. The comunarios of Karikari, Calachaca and other pueblos along the borders of Alonso de Ibáñez and Charcas de Potosí municipalities, say they have never been consulted on the project, and fear that it will threaten local lagunas. Rojas is being held at Cantumarca prison in Potosí's capital. He actually faces charges related to the destruction of mining equipment and the illegal detention of National Police officers during protests last month. (EFE, ANF, AFP, Erbol, June 29; La Razón, La Paz, June 8)

See our last posts on Bolivia and regional struggles over water and minerals.

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