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Two Miners Killed, Many Hurt in Bolivia Clash

By Eduardo Garcia, Reuters

August 5, 2008


At least two miners were killed and many more injured on Tuesday in clashes between police and workers at the country's largest tin mine, Huanuni, where miners are striking over pensions, local radio reported.

Violence erupted when police clashed with groups of striking miners who had blocked the road that links the administrative capital La Paz with the city of Oruro, Interior Minister Alfredo Rada told reporters in La Paz.

Rada confirmed reports that one miner had been killed in the clashes. A local radio station said soon afterward that a second miner had died.

Miners at Huanuni, some 160 miles (260 km) south of La Paz, launched an indefinite strike last Thursday to back a drive by Bolivia's largest labor federation, the COB, for bigger pensions and a lowering of the retirement age to 55.

"This is a massacre and the only one to blame is (President) Evo Morales," Felipe Machaca, a COB leader told radio Erbol.

Huanuni has been a flashpoint for labor strife. In April, miners staged a 12-day pay strike, and output was halted for several weeks in late 2006 after violent clashes between rival groups of miners killed 18 people and injured dozens.
Tensions are running high across South America's poorest country ahead of a recall vote on Sunday that could force leftist Morales and regional governors out of office, and Rada said the mine protests were politically motivated.
"These protests have a political undertone, they want the referendum to fail," he said.


Elsewhere in the country, anti-government protesters tried to storm the main airport in natural gas-rich Tarija region.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his Argentine counterpart Cristina Fernandez had been due to meet Morales in Tarija on Tuesday for energy talks, but Bolivia's vice president said the meeting had been canceled because of the demonstrations.

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