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Cablegate: Mining: Fighting Ends, Talks Begin

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #2723/01 2831942
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101942Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0822
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 6166
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 3480
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7341
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 4603
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1857
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 1898
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 1809
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 4067
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 4493
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 9068
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS LA PAZ 002723

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/AND
TREASURY FOR SGOOCH
ENERGY FOR CDAY AND SLADISLAW

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB EMIN PGOV PREL BL
SUBJECT: MINING: FIGHTING ENDS, TALKS BEGIN

REF: A. LA PAZ 2698

B. LA PAZ 2719

1. (SBU) Summary: In response to deadly clashes between
state mining workers and independent cooperative miners in
Huanuni, President Morales replaced the mining minister and
the head of the state-owned mining company COMIBOL on October
7. A GOB commission held talks with both sides on October 9,
but the cooperative miners walked out and refused to return
until the government met a list of demands. The Cooperative
Mining Federation will hold a meeting in Oruro on October 10
to discuss next steps. The Federation harshly criticized
President Morales' behavior during the conflict. The
Bolivian Workers Union and opposition congressmen are
threatening to initiate legal proceedings against President
Morales and several ministers for the Huanuni deaths. End
summary.

Mining Leaders Replaced
-----------------------
2. (SBU) In response to deadly clashes between state mining
workers and independent cooperative miners (ref A), on
October 7, President Morales replaced Mining Minister Walter
Villarroel, former cooperative miner, with Jose Dalence,
former leader of state mining workers, a move which was
rejected by the cooperative mining federation. The
cooperative miners, who make up 82 percent of Bolivia's
mining population, say they feel betrayed by the Morales
administration, which made grand promises to the sector
during its campaign. The president of the state-owned mining
company COMIBOL, Antonio Revollo, was replaced by Hugo
Miranda Rendon, a mining engineer who had previously worked
for COMIBOL for 26 years. In his speech naming the new
leaders, President Morales denounced a conspiracy against his
government and lamented that the miners had been turned into
an "instrument of the neoliberals."

Cooperative Miners Walk Out of Talks
------------------------------------
3. (SBU) The cooperative miners and COMIBOL workers stopped
fighting in Huanuni late on October 6 after reaching a truce
(ref B), and buried the dead on the 7th. On October 9, a GOB
commission consisting of the ministers of the presidency,
health, and defense, and the national ombudsman met first
with COMIBOL workers and representatives of the civilian
population of Huanuni and later with cooperative mining
leaders. The COMIBOL workers reportedly accepted the GOB's
humanitarian aid plan and are willing to discuss various
proposals for dividing the Posokoni mine between the two
groups and revamping COMIBOL with private investment.
However, the cooperative miners walked out of the talks, and
refused to continue discussions until the government gave in
to its demands: withdrawing the armed forces and police from
Huanuni, sending wounded cooperative miners to private
clinics, and compensating the widows. The Cooperative Mining
Federation will hold a meeting in Oruro on October 10 to
discuss next steps.

4. (SBU) The Cooperative Mining Federation harshly criticized
President Morales for his removal of Mining Minister
Villarroel and for his reaction to the conflict. The
Cooperative Mining Federation president told the press that
Evo Morales "did not respect our pain and blamed us for the
conflict." According to television news reports, the
cooperative miners not only decided to stop supporting the
government, but allegedly threatened to take actions to
overthrow it. CAINCO, a Santa Cruz business chamber strongly
associated with the opposition, placed an add in the press
offering aid to the miners and calling them brothers. It is
likely that the political opposition will seek to exploit the
conflict to ratchet up pressure on the MAS administration.
Labor Union Wants to Put Evo on Trial
-------------------------------------
5. (SBU) The Bolivian Workers' Union plans to hold a march in
La Paz on October 10 to support the COMIBOL workers. The
executive secretary of the union reportedly stated that the
union would seek to have President Morales and three
ministers brought to trial for the events in Huanuni.
Opposition congressmen from the National Unity party have
also threatened to take legal action against the Minister of
Government Alicia Munoz and the former Mining Minister Walter
Villarroel.

6. (SBU) Comment: Although the fighting has stopped, reaching
a permanent solution will be impossible without the
cooperation of the cooperative miners, a powerful force in
Bolivian politics. The GOB has lost another of its allies --
the 63,000 cooperative miners who feel betrayed by the
government for not living up to its promises. Opposition
leaders will likely seek to exploit this opportunity to
ratchet up pressure on the MAS administration. The GOB's
plans to revamp COMIBOL with private investment will be
difficult to implement, as potential investors are likely to
be deterred by the ongoing conflict between independent
miners and state workers. End comment.
GOLDBERG

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