Bolivia: vice-minister killed by protesting miners

A deputy interior minister in Bolivia's government was abducted and killed by striking miners Aug. 25 in a conflict over formalization of mineral claims on the Altiplano. Rodolfo Illanes had gone to Panduro , a town some 80 miles south of La Paz, to open a dialogue with the miners, who had been blockading a highway for the past three days. The protest had turned violent, with two miners killed by riot police. Interior Minister Carlos Romero said "all indications" were that Illanes had been murdered in a "cowardly and brutal" attack. Defense Minister Reymi Ferreira broke down on television as he described how Illanes, appointed to his post in March, had apparently been "beaten and tortured to death." The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives (FENCOMIN), which called the strike, has not yet issued a statement.

The strike was called to demand the release of 10 miners detained in angry and sometimes violent protests in the area over the past month. At issue are demands that the mining cooperatives be allowed to lease out their mineral claims to private companies—now prohibited under Bolivia's constitution. Romero said the striking miners have been "compromised by the transnationals." Bolivia's press has revealed 36 illegal contracts signed by the cooperatives. (Reuters, NPR, BBC News, Bolivia Prensa, Aug. 26; InfoBae, Aug. 25)