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Cablegate: Cooperative Miners March On La Paz and Plan To

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #1976/01 1990549
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 180549Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4345
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6932
RUEHSW/AMEMBASSY BERN 0140
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 4280
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 8168
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 5413
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0068
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 2643
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 2803
RUEHMD/AMEMBASSY MADRID 3536
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 4725
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO 0123
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 0477
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5274
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 9881
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0312
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0005
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 0413
RHMFIUU/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUMIAAA/USCINCSO MIAMI FL
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS LA PAZ 001976

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EMIN BL
SUBJECT: COOPERATIVE MINERS MARCH ON LA PAZ AND PLAN TO
"TAKE" SUCRE

REF: A. A: LA PAZ 1940
B. B: LA PAZ 1840
C. C: LA PAZ 1403
D. D: LA PAZ 363

------------------------------------
Cooperative Miners Protest in La Paz
-------------------------------------

1. Press reports indicate that thousands of cooperative
miners arrived the morning of July 17 in El Alto on their way
to La Paz. On orders from the Ministry of Government and
Ministry of Defense, the police and military are searching
all vehicles entering La Paz in an attempt to seize
explosives. Press reports indicate that police in El Alto
are using tear gas to disperse groups of miners. As of 1500,
confrontations between police and cooperatives in El Alto are
ongoing, and access to the La Paz central governmental plaza
has been closed by the police as a precautionary measure.
Police are searching demonstrators in the Heroes' Plaza
(close to the central plaza) because some of the protesting
miners reportedly have dynamite. The Superintendent of
Transportation announced over the weekend that starting this
week there will be severe sanctions for the transportation of
explosives on public vehicles. (Note: Huanuni salaried
miners were forgiven on July 13 for their attempt to bring
explosives into La Paz, see La Paz 1940.)

------------------
Tomorrow in Sucre?
------------------

2. Press sources in Potosi (a cooperative stronghold) claim
that 30,000 miners will march on Sucre tomorrow to "take" the
Constituent Assembly in an attempt to force the assembly to
conclude its work in August, as originally planned. The
Potosi Departmental Federation of Cooperative Miners
(FEDECOMIN Potosi) warns that its members will be militant
and will block roads from Potosi to Oruro, Tarija, Sucre, and
Uyuni. The prospect of cooperative miners descending upon
Sucre worries the GOB, since the last such major protests
resulted in significant damage to public property.

------------------------
Cooperatives' Complaints
------------------------

3. Sources in the mining industry suggested to Emboff last
week that the real reason for this show of strength on the
part of the cooperative miners is their opposition to a
recent private-member bill tabled in congress which would
invalidate all current contracts with the state mining
company, COMIBOL. Such a bill would be extremely damaging
for the cooperatives and would also put at risk Coeur
d'Alene's San Bartolome mine in Potosi.

4. After previous protests, the cooperatives are now exempt
from a number of the GOB's most damaging proposed changes to
the mining code (ref B), including increased taxes. However,
the cooperatives are still opposed to the GOB's May 1 decree
declaring all mineral reserves to be the property of the
state. In addition, the national cooperative mining
federation (FENCOMIN) leader announced that they are opposed
to the nationalization of Huanuni, which was the main reason
for the paralyzing protests by the salaried miners a week
ago.

5. A leader of cooperatives in Oruro is also quoted as
saying that President Morales has discriminated against the
miners in favor of the indigenous and campesinos, whom the

GOB supposedly favors. "The cooperative miners are
supporters of the state, more than the campesinos and
indigenous, yet disgracefully they want to run the
country...we are not against the indigenous, but we cannot go
backwards..." Specifically, he cited the proposed section of
the new constitution which would give indigenous groups first
rights to any mineral deposits on their lands, lamenting the
fact that the cooperatives would have to "ask permission" to
do their jobs. Another cooperative leader complained about
the "lack of attention from this government" and cited the
"pure hypocrisy" of their various meetings with President
Morales, who promised them benefits that they have not yet
seen.

-------
Comment
-------

6. The cooperative miners have marched a number of times
recently in reaction to unfavorable decrees by President
Morales' government (refs B and C), and in general they have
wrung concessions from the GOB through their use of
sometimes-violent street protests. Coming so soon after the
success of the Huanuni salaried-miners' protests (ref A), the
cooperative miners' protests may have less to do with
particular complaints and more to do with a basic need to
show their power. A goal of the Huanuni miners' protests was
the exclusion of cooperatives from Huanuni, and a perceived
"win" for the salaried-miners may, therefore, require a win
for the cooperatives. (Comment: No matter who wins these
face-offs with the government, the country as a whole loses
in productivity and international image. The Huanuni strike
left travelers and commercial vehicles stranded for over six
days and reportedly caused over USD200,000 in lost mining
revenues daily.)

7. Recently, President Morales commented publicly that the
miners are no longer the hope and defense of the Bolivian
people. "Before, the miners fought for the Bolivian people
and not just for a sector, region, or municipality, and now
they are becoming a sector that damages the country," he
said. In the past, President Morales has relied on the
backing of the miners, but now the relation seems to be
cooling (see ref C for further comment.) A split between the
miners (often seen as prototypical Bolivian) and the populist
(and extremely popular) president could hurt Morales' public
image. In a television interview after the the police use of
tear gas, the leader of FENCOMIN reminded the GOB that
marches such as this one were the way that the Morales
government came to power and that the cooperatives had
supported the current government. On the other hand, the
transportation difficulties and potential violence that
surrounded the Huanuni and now cooperatives' protests have
not enhanced the image of either the cooperative or state
miners, with both groups appearing to lose public support.
End comment.
GOLDBERG

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