Bolivian miners, industry face second national strike this week

By
Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bolivian mining companies and other industries faced the third mass protest against President Evo Morales' government this month as the Andean country's largest labor union confederation staged a 48-hour national strike to oppose the closure of more state enterprises.

Miners, transport and health workers, teachers and the handicapped, among others, staged protest marches and blocked roads in at least nine departments, according to the COB union confederation. Police used teargas to break up one roadblock in La Paz, footage broadcast by TV station Bolivisión showed.

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"In Cochabamba there will be a march and roadblocks tomorrow [Friday], roadblocks today in Santa Cruz, and a roadblock in La Paz," industrial union leader Vitaliano Mamani told Radio Fides.

Karachipampa zinc smelter and telecommunications workers blocked roads in southern Potosí department, while health workers marched in Oruro and Chuquisaca, and hospital services were curtailed in La Paz and eight other departments, state news agency ABI reported.

The protest comes after a 24-hour national strike June 20 to protest against the dismissal of 1,000 textile workers from bankrupt state mill Enatex. The government, which has also shut the Karachipampa smelter and El Mutún iron-steel project in the past six months, planned to hold talks Thursday with workers from bankrupt state postal service Ecobol.

The government declared the stoppage illegal and threatened to dock striking workers' pay. Banks, factories, stores and government entities were operating normally, interior minister Carlos Romero said.

"This isn't a strike as such, but rather a fictitious and isolated protest," Romero told a press conference.

Earlier this month the government also faced massive protests as workers staged demonstrations and blocked highways in key mining and oil regions.