LA PAZ – At least nine people were injured in a clash between truck drivers and protesters who have been blocking highways in the southwestern Bolivian province of Potosi for nearly three weeks.
The confrontation took place Sunday in the San Antonio area, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Potosi city, the provincial police chief, Col. Mario Hinojosa, told Efe.
Drivers of the blocked trucks and buses tried to clear the road by force, attacking a picket of peasants and miners, burning their mattresses and blankets and throwing away their food supplies, reporters said.
Those manning the roadblocks, many of them miners, reorganized and came back at their assailants throwing stones and dynamite cartridges, destroying between 34 and 40 buses and trucks in the process.
The most serious injury was suffered by a miner who lost a hand trying to throw a dynamite cartridge at the truck drivers.
In the midst of the battle, several peasants suffered blows to the head, leaving one in grave condition who was later admitted to the main hospital in Potosi.
After several hours the situation was normalized after the contentious parties were asked to keep calm and to await the outcome of the negotiations going on in the nearby city of Sucre to resolve the conflict, police chief Hinojosa said.
In Sucre, several ministers of the government of President Evo Morales and heads of the Potosi Civic Committee have been negotiating since Saturday to find a solution to six demands and, according to media outlets, preliminary accords have been reached on some of them.
Five of the demands are related to regional development projects, while the sixth concerns a boundary dispute with the neighboring province of Oruro.
The secretary-general of the Civic Committee, Luis Pastor Villafuerte, told Efe from Sucre that the Cabinet ministers did not want to make “concrete commitments” about the investments Potosi needs, which has delayed reaching definitive agreements.
And any agreements reached in Sucre will still have to be evaluated by the leaders of the protests, the general strike and the pickets in Potosi.
The conflict has affected hundreds of foreign tourists that have gradually been able to leave Potosi city in the last few days, thanks to the intervention of their respective embassies. EFE