LA PAZ – A Bolivian truck driver participating in the blockade of the border with Chile died after being beaten by two drunken soldiers who found him inside their barracks, the government confirmed Tuesday.
Defense Minister Raymi Ferreira said that Lt. Saul Oropeza Fernandez and Sgt. Yerson Patzi Callata were drunk when they beat trucker Juan Jose Mamani to death upon finding him in the barracks.
The two soldiers were arrested on Monday shortly after committing the crime that is now under investigation because the soldiers claim that Mamani entered the barracks and got hold of a firearm, but that account is being probed.
Ferreira and top military officers have insisted that this is an “incident” because there was no order to repress demonstrators who have cut the route into Chile since Sunday to protest taxes.
The two soldiers will be relieved of duty and tried by the civilian justice system for the death of the trucker, whose protesting colleagues on Monday denounced his killing.
By blocking the Tambo Quemado crossing point and other roads, the truckers are demanding that the government of Evo Morales make tax rules more flexible for the cargo transport sector.
The Economy and Finance Ministry rejected the petition of the truckers, arguing that the state could lose some $143.6 million in tax collections.
On Sunday, a 63-year-old woman died of a brain aneurysm after an argument with the truckers blocking access to the southeastern city of Sucre.