LA PAZ – Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes, who had been held hostage by striking Bolivian miners, died late Thursday, the director of Fedcomin radio, Moises Flores, said he had personally verified.
“We went to the site where Deputy Minister Illanes was and we found him lifeless. We are very shocked, we’re running a risk because the miners are furious,” Flores told Erbol Radio by telephone from Panduro, some 180 kilometers (112 miles) from La Paz, where clashes have erupted between miners and police.
Illanes had been taken prisoner by miners as he tried to persuade them to end roadblocks, and he had said earlier on Thursday that authorities need to establish a dialogue with the protesters.
“I am being held by the comrades, I have not received any mistreatment,” Illanes told a reporter from radio Pio XXII.
“I am in very good health, let my family be reassured. I am sitting in a place guarded by the comrades so people don’t harm me,” he said.
Illanes spoke from Panduro, where he traveled early Thursday with hopes of convincing the miners to clear the roadblocks and enter talks with the government of President Evo Morales.
Instead, the miners took the deputy minister prisoner.
Hours before Illanes talked to the media, Interior Minister Carlos Romero denounced the miners’ action as a kidnapping and said they had threatened to torture the official.
Cecilio Alanes, a leader of the Fencomin federation of cooperative miners, told reporters that Illanes was taken captive because he was operating as a spy in the ranks of the miners.
Fencomin members have been blocking highways for three days to protest a new law they see as threatening their interests.
Confrontations between miners and police turned violent on Wednesday.
While Fencomin said that two of its members were fatally shot, authorities reported only one fatality.