Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Fistful of Socialism

Reuters - Hundreds of mourners on Sunday buried Bolivian miners killed last week in deadly dynamite battles between rival groups fighting over work at one of the world's largest tin mines, a union official said.

Townspeople laid floral wreaths on several caskets and crowds solemnly walked in procession through the streets of Huanuni, an impoverished town of about 40,000 people southeast of La Paz, Reuters photographs showed.

Violent clashes that broke out in the town between state-employed and independent miners left 17 people dead, said Alfredo Aguilar, a union official for workers at the state-controlled company, COMIBOL.

The bloodbath began when independent miners stormed the state-owned Huanuni mine on Thursday demanding concessions to exploit more ore from the mine, in which both state-employed miners and independent co-operatives work.

More than 60 people were wounded in the fighting before hundreds of police arrived and government and church officials stepped in to mediate.

Leftist President Evo Morales swiftly replaced his mining minister, who was criticised for not anticipating the violence. Local media have said talks over the mine's future between the government and the rival groups would begin on Monday.

"We're going to enter into talks, everything's going to depend on the co-operatives. We've got to reach some kind of agreement or we're going to be living in permanent war," Aguilar said.

Both state-employed miners and independent miners work parts of the vast Huanuni tin mine -- the South American country's biggest -- and the independent co-operatives have long demanded larger concessions to work the site.