LA PAZ – Hundreds of Bolivian miners and police clashed violently on Wednesday in La Paz after a new attempt at dialogue between government ministers and leaders of a protest in the southwestern city Potosi failed.
One person was injured and police arrested dozens of protesters.
The miners used dynamite charges to attack the police, who made liberal use of tear gas, causing chaos on streets near the Interior Ministry, where the dialogue attempt had been made.
The workers reacted violently after learning that their leader, Potosi Civic Committee, or Comcipo, president Jhonny Llally, abandoned the meeting with the ministers to discuss the protesters’ demands.
After the failed dialogue attempt, Bolivian miners detonated a dynamite charge at the doors of the Interior Ministry and hurled rocks at the building.
The miners placed the dynamite at the side door of the ministry and detonated it but only damaged the door, after which they occupied the building’s interior patio and threw rocks at the building, breaking a number of windows, EFE learned.
Police repelled the demonstrators with tear gas, but the miners responded by throwing more dynamite charges.
Several government ministers who had been inside the building managed to escape through a back door before the disturbance.
Comcipo is leading the protests – including road blockages – in the southwestern Andean city of Potosi to demand regional development. Among their demands are that the government build a hydroelectric plant, three hospitals, more roads, glass and cement factories, as well as an international airport and make efforts to control the environmental damage done by mining in the area.
Meanwhile, the government accused the miners of staging an attack on the ministers.
“I want to denounce the attack on the ministers. Having dynamited the ministry is a personal attack on the ministers, having broken the windows with stones,” said Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera at a press conference, adding that one ministry worker was injured in the face by broken glass and two official vehicles were “dynamited.”
Potosi residents have been protesting in their city, and in La Paz, since July 6 to demand that the government of Evo Morales pay attention to more than 20 demands for regional development.