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Rodolfo Illanes, Bolivia’s Deputy Interior Minister died on Thursday after he was taken hostage by a group of mining workers demanding mining concessions with less stringent environmental regulations.
President Evo Morales declared Friday a day of “deep pain” for Bolivia, after it was revealed that the 56-year-old was beaten to death.
The miners kidnapped him at a roadblock they had created on a major highway 100 miles outside of La Paz. Reuters reports that the roadblock was lifted Friday morning.
"Our natural resources belong to the people, which is why I call brother Illanes a hero in the defense of our natural resources," Morales told local reporters while calling for three days of national mourning.
The national government had sent Illanes to the highway to negotiate with the miners on the issues of contention, but, early Thursday morning, his body was found bloodied and wrapped in a blanket on the side of the highway from which he was kidnapped, Edwin Blanco, the case’s chief investigator told Reuters.
"The cause of death was basically bleeding in the brain. Ribs were also broken," Blanco said.
Earlier this week, two miners died at the highway blockade after the police began firing bullets. Seventeen officers were wounded in the clashes, according to government sources, who also denied allegations of police brutality.
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Morales used to work as a coca farmer before he won national presidential elections in 2006 as a socialist and populist candidate.
Soon after Morales was sworn in, he nationalized Bolivia’s natural resources’ mining and extraction sector and used the profits to fund welfare programs for the citizenry.
In recent years, Morales’ administration has been criticized for authoritarian behavior and corruption. Labor unions for the mining sector have turned their backs on him as the struggling commodities market brings in reduced revenues, lowering federal welfare spending.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…