Bolivia accuses mining leader, 2 others of murdering deputy minister

Bolivian authorities accused the president of a mining federation and two of his top officials of the killing of deputy interior minister Rodolfo Illanes amid a bitter strike, officials said Saturday. Forty miners have been detained in the case.

Illanes was kidnapped and beaten to death by striking mine workers on Thursday after to going to the town of Panduro, 130 kilometres south of La Paz, to mediate in the dispute over mining laws and dwindling paychecks.

Three protesters have been killed in clashes with riot police, stoking tensions.

The striking miners had armed themselves with dynamite and seized several highways, stranding thousands of vehicles and passengers.

Bolivia’s Attorney General’s Office has detained 40 miners, among them protest leader Carlos Mamani, president of the National Federation of Mining Co-operatives of Bolivia. On Saturday afternoon, Mamani and two other federation officials were accused by the Public Ministry in Illanes’ death.

Bolivia Deputy Minister Killed

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales speaks during a press conference at the government palace in La Paz Friday, characterizing the killing of a deputy minister as a ‘political conspiracy.’ (Juan Karita/The Associated Press)

An autopsy found that Illanes died from trauma to the brain and thorax.

The blockaded highway in Panduro was clear on Friday as the miners returned to their camps. A funeral Mass was held for Illanes in La Paz.

Illanes’ murder underscored how President Evo Morales, a former coca growers’ union leader, has increasingly found himself at odds with the same kind of popular social movements that fuelled his rise to power and have made up his political base.

The leftist president called the beating death of the deputy minister “a conspiracy” to overthrow him.

Bolivia Deputy Minister Killed

Police officer escort independent miners detained for questioning in the death of Bolivia’s of Rodolfo Illanes, in La Paz on Friday.

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