In September 9th’s edition of the Inter-American Dialogue’s Daily Publication “The Latin American Advisor”, Kathryn Ledebur, along with academics and policy analysts on Bolivia, participated in a featured Q & A on Bolivia’s mining conflict.
Read Kathryn’s response below:
Latin American Advisor Q&A: What is Behind the Strife Between Bolivia & Miners?
September 9, 2016
Q: Bolivian President Evo Morales’ government on Sept. 1 increased control over the country’s mining cooperatives following violent demonstrations the previous week that resulted in the deaths of four workers and Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes. The government plans to take some land concessions back from cooperatives and also banned the use of dynamite during protests. What is at the heart of the disputes between mining cooperatives and the government? What are the political and economic consequences of the unrest? Will miners receive the better working conditions and pay that they have been demanding?
A: Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network in Cochabamba: “Although four miners also died from bullet wounds during the protests, Illanes’ brutal murder violated unspoken rules of Bolivian political confl ict and eroded public sympathy for the National Federation of Mining Cooperatives of Bolivia (Fencomin). Prosecution of key leaders has also demobilized the group. Cooperatives began as loose organizations of freelance miners after mineral prices hit rock bottom, but have, in some cases, grown into profi table private enterprises that oppose unionization of their workforce. Nationalization, reinforced by the 2009 Constitution, coincided with a surge in mineral prices, which reactivated the state mining sector and limited Fencomin’s concessions. As prices slump, the pie grows smaller for both groups. On Sept. 1, the Bolivian government took executive action to regulate the sector, including reverting cooperatives’ joint ventures, subleases and contracts with domestic and international companies. Cooperatives now must report earnings, profi t distribution and payroll to state monitoring agencies. According to the national cooperative law, organizations that fail to equitably distribute profi ts must be registered as private businesses. The decrees also mandate social benefi ts and legal guarantees for employees in compliance with the national labor legislation. The action also establishes prison sentences for the use of dynamite in protests. It is premature to speculate on the long-term political impact for the Morales administration. In spite of recurring violent protests against state regulation during the past decade, Fencomin has continued to support the ruling MAS party electorally. Furthermore, public outrage over the vice minister’s death and approval for MAS’ regulation of the combative group could offset any loss of support from a sector of approximately 60,000.”
To read the full Q & A, visit the Latin American Advisor online and provide a donation.