LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales said Saturday that violent mining protests this week that resulted in the torture and killing of Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes and the deaths of three demonstrators were the latest unsuccessful attempt by his political enemies to forcibly remove him from office.
“Once again, the national government has squashed an attempted coup. I’m convinced of that,” the leftist head of state told reporters in the central city of Cochabamba.
He added that the miners had planned to entrench themselves at the roadblocks they had established and that documents confiscated from the offices of the cooperative miners mention “overthrowing the government.”
Morales reiterated his claim that the miners’ protests were politically motivated and were not – as the leaders of the National Federation of Mining Cooperatives, or Fencomin, allege – launched to express their rejection of a new mining law that promotes the creation of labor unions within those organizations.
On Friday, the leftist head of state hailed Illanes as a “hero of the defense of (Bolivia’s) natural resources” after reiterating that the real aim of the cooperative miners’ protest was to pressure the government to allow them to sign contracts with private and multinational companies.
On other occasions, Morales has slammed protests by different social sectors, including those by one-time allies, as coup-mongering conspiracies.
The cooperative miners behind this week’s labor conflict also were former allies of the Bolivian leader.
The violent protests claimed the life of Illanes, who was kidnapped when he arrived at one of the roadblocks to hold talks with the miners.
The autopsy showed the deputy interior minister died of multiple blows to the chest and head after being tortured for up to seven hours.
Illanes’ coffin was taken Saturday from the presidential palace to the building housing the office of the deputy interior minister and then to a La Paz funeral home, where his body will lie in state until his burial on Sunday.
Miners Severino Ichota, Fermin Mamani and Ruben Aparaya Pillco also were killed in clashes this week with police near roadblocks.