LA PAZ – A two-week-old general strike in the Bolivian mining region of Potosi will continue and protest leaders said Monday that they would only negotiate with President Evo Morales.
Those are the two main decisions taken on Monday by the strikers in an assembly convened in Potosi by the Comcipo coalition of neighborhood organizations, unions and university groups.
One of the leaders of Comcipo, Emilio Elias, told the media that “an open-ended strike will be maintained unchanged” and that the leaders of the mobilization agreed that “the dialogue must be with President Evo Morales and not ... with the ministers.”
“We’re tired of learning that the ministers have just come to deceive us with signing resolutions. We’re not fighting for a particular interest, we’re fighting for an entire province,” Elias told Erbol radio.
The Potosi leaders insist on speaking with Morales, who on Saturday said “there’s nothing to talk about” because the majority of the strikers’ demands have already been attended to or are in the process of being settled.
A few hours before Monday’s meeting in Potosi, Interior Minister Carlos Romero, accompanied by four of his colleagues, told the media that the protest is a “political mobilization” because, he said, Comcipo has rejected dialogue on several occasions.
Romero specifically accused Comcipo chairman Jhonny Llally of preventing other civic representatives from Potosi from approaching the government to discuss their requests.
The Potosi leaders are insisting that the government build a hydroelectric plant, three hospitals, more roads, glass and cement factories, an international airport and take effective action to preserve the Cerro Rico, an area that has been decimated by mining exploitation, along with other demands.
The strike is being supported in La Paz by members of assorted sectors who came from Potosi and, in particular, by hundreds of miners who arrived in the past few hours.
More than 1,000 demonstrators held a march in downtown La Paz, near Congress and the presidential palace, which are being protected by heavy police cordons.
National ombudsman Rolando Villena expressed “alarm” over the situation in Potosi because basic goods have begun to run short due to the closure of the markets and the blockading of roads in the region, a situation that is preventing the arrival of food and other goods, including medicines.