A clash between Bolivia’s elite Police Operations Tactical Unit (UTOP) and loteadores (squatters) calling themselves the “Sin Techo” (Roofless) movement erupted when agents evicted an encampment on a private predio (collective land-holding) of 70 hectares at La Guardia, Santa Cruz department, on April 16. The confrontation left one squatter dead and numerous on both sides wounded. At least 12 police were reported to be among the injured. Police said 11 loteadores were detained in the action. Vice-Minister of Interior Gustavo Torrico denied that security forces used firearms in the eviction, and said an investigation into the use of arms by the squatters would be carried out. One revolver was reported confiscated. (El Deber, Santa Cruz, La Razon, La Paz, April 17; ABI, April 18)
Also April 16, a group of some 900 local comunarios (communal peasants) invaded the operations area of San Cristobal Mining Company in Nor Lípez, Potosí department, burning the company’s office and overturning two rail-wagons loaded with some 20 tons each of lead, silver and zinc ore. The comunarios are protesting the contamination of local water sources by the mining operations, while the company uses 50,000 cubic meters of water every day free of charge. Comunario leader Mario Mamani said the protesters are demanding that company, a subsidiary of the Japanese multinational Sumitomo, pay local communities directly for use of the water, as well as paying for electrification projects. They pledged to continue their occupation, and overturn another wagon every five hours until their demands are met.
The comunarios said they had been petitioning authorities for months to no avail. For five days before invading San Cristobal’s installation, they had been peacefully blocking the border crossing with Chile at Avaroa. Vice-Minister Torrico said dialogue has been established with the protesters via the Potosí prefectural authorities, but said that due to the “intransigence of the comunarios , we cannot rule out the use of public force.” (La Razon, La Prensa, Cambio, La Paz, ABI, April 17)