Bolivia: three dead in miners’ protests

Thousands of miners blocked highways in five departments of Bolivia for five days starting March 31 to protest a pending new mining law. Members of mining cooperatives installed at least 10 roablocks in the departments of  La Paz, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Potosí and Oruro. At least three were killed in clashes with the National Police. The protests were called off after the government agreed to suspend the legislation, which had already cleared the lower-house Chamber of Deputies. The bill sought to bar the cooperatives from seeking private investment, restricting them to contracts with the Bolivian state. In response to the protests, President Evo Morales is drafting a new bill that would allow private contracts while restricting investment by foreign companies. (Los Tiempos de Cochabamba, April 5; EFE, AFPEl Universal, Venezuela, April 4; EFE, April 3; El Deber, Santa Cruz, Reuters, April 1)

Campesinos and environmentalists protest that the proposed law would expand the right of mning operations to to exploit water resources. Under the current law, passed under the disgraced President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, mining companies were restricted to exploiting water within their concession area. Under the proposed new law, they would have the power to exploit adjacent watersheds, and to compulsory purchase of the lands that protect those waters. (Página Siete, La Paz, April 1)

  1. Bolivia: new mining minister sworn in

    César Navarro was sworn in as Bolivia's new mining minister April 8, replacing Mario Virreira, who accepted responsibility in the recent conflict regarding changes to the mining law. The new minister was given four main tasks by President Evo Morales: to audit contracts between cooperatives and private companies, to train mining professionals, to modernize the state mining sector, and to encourage industrialization in the sector generally. Upon taking office, Navarro opened an audit of the state-owned Bolivian Mining Corporation (Comibol). (Argentina Independent, April 9)