Battling Bolivian miners agree truce

Rival groups of Bolivian miners battling for control of a tin mine have agreed a truce after 24 hours of fighting left 16 dead and 61 injured.

    Homes were destroyed during the clashes

    State employed and independent miners have fought each other using firearms and dynamite in a battle for control of the Huanuni mine, 280 km south of La Paz in the Andes mountains.

    The government has sent 700 paramilitary troops to the Huanuni tin mine in an attempt to restore order.

    However Alex Contreras, a government spokesman, said a truce between the miners had been agreed late on Friday.

    "We believe that now is the time for us to support peace for the people of Huanuni, and to work to solve this problem."

    In response to the clashes Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, replaced his mining minister on Friday.

    Bolivian television showed Guillermo Dalence, the new minister, being sworn in to replace Walter Villaroel.

    Recent protests

    The violence began on Thursday morning, when hundreds of miners belonging to independent cooperatives stormed the state-owned mine, demanding more access to its tin deposits.

    State-employed miners counter-attacked to regain control of the mine and the groups exchanged gunshots and threw sticks of dynamite.

    The clashes have been a test for the Morales' left-wing government. Union leaders have blamed his administration for the conflict.

    The cooperatives strongly backed Morales' election last year, and the government has already granted them access to a portion of the Huanuni tin deposit on on the barren slopes of Posokoni Mountain.

    The government has negotiated an end to recent protests and road blockages over Indian rights, natural resources and land, and coca-leaf farming.

    Huanuni is South America's largest tin mine and produces five percent of the world's supply.

    Prices have soared on world markets because of violence.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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