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Rival Bolivian miners clash, killing 12 and injuring 45

Rival Bolivian miners clash, killing 12 and injuring 45

Twelve people were killed and at least 45 more were injured on Thursday when independent miners allied with President Evo Morales clashed with workers from Bolivia's state-run mining company over access to South America's richest tin mine.
Hundreds of miners belonging to independent cooperatives stormed the state-owned Huanuni mine Thursday, demanding more access to its tin deposits. State-employed miners counterattacked to regain control of the mine and the groups exchanged gunshots and threw mining explosives.
Bolivian state TV said 12 people were killed and at least 45 injured in the clashes.
A team of Bolivia's top ministers arrived in the mining town of Huanuni, 280 kilometers (180 miles) south of the capital of La Paz, in hopes of negotiating an end to the conflict.
The Bolivian government has so far declined to mobilize the military in response to the conflict.
"We are still not deploying public forces, and will do so only when it becomes necessary," Morales' chief of staff, Juan Ramon Quintana, told a news conference.
It remained unclear Thursday evening whether the independent miners still held the mine.
Quintana pleaded for calm and asked Huanuni residents to remain in their homes until the conflict had been resolved.
But some angry miners accused Morales, Bolivia's first Indian president, of withholding troops to avoid a confrontation with the independent mining cooperatives that played a key role in the populist movement that helped him win election last December.
"If they will not send the army, then they should send us boxes for our dead," said Pedro Montes, secretary-general of the Central Obrero Boliviano, a nationwide union representing the state-employed miners.
Among the dead were men and women from both groups, as well as a local bus driver, according to media reports.
Mining Minister Walter Villaroel _ who led an independent miners' cooperative before joining Morales' administration _ was not among the government delegation sent to Huanuni.
The embattled minister has rejected calls for his resignation over his handling of the crisis. In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Villaroel strongly backed the cooperatives, accusing the government's own miners of orchestrating the attack with the support of Morales' conservative opposition.
"These deaths cannot go unpunished," he said. "If possible, I'm going to declare myself on a hunger strike, because we must discover the intellectual authors of the deaths of our brother cooperative members."


Updated : 2021-03-02 10:31 GMT+08:00