LA PAZ – An attempt at dialogue between the Bolivian government and leaders of the protests in the Andean city of Potosi failed on Tuesday due to the insistence by the latter that President Evo Morales be on hand to discuss their grievances and for the Catholic Church and human rights defenders to mediate the talks.
As a precondition for negotiating with government ministers, the leaders of the Potosi Civic Committee, or Comcipo, said that the meeting had to be open to the media, their demands needed to be analyzed and discussed without interruption and Morales had to be present to sign the final accord to be reached at the end of the talks, according to what the protest leaders told journalists.
The government invited the Potosi leaders to meet at 2 p.m. in La Paz, but it said that the conclusions reached at the gathering would be sent to Morales, who would not be on hand.
“Once the dialogue is concluded and the listing of Comcipo’s demands is finished, and without any other pressure measures, (Morales) will receive” the final document,” said Cabinet chief Juan Ramon Quintana.
A committee of seven ministers headed by Interior Minister Carlos Romero, waited for almost two hours for the Comcipo leaders, who were holding a private meeting to analyze the government’s offer to negotiate.
Upon the conclusion of that meeting, Comcipo president Jhonny Llally read a letter sent to the government in which the conditions presented initially were ratified and a new one added: having the Catholic Church, national ombudsman Rolando Villena and Bolivia’s Permanent Human Rights Assembly mediate the talks.
Comcipo criticized the “ambiguities” of the government’s response to the conditions placed on the dialogue and asked that the discussion not be delayed any further.
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.
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.
Villena has 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.