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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 October 2006, 03:49 GMT 04:49 UK
Truce halts Bolivia mine violence

A truce has been called in a violent confrontation between miners in Bolivia that has left 16 dead and more than 60 injured, government officials say.

The truce will allow the state-employed and independent miners to discuss a solution to the control of the key tin mine in the town of Huanuni.

President Evo Morales has sacked the minister for mines and ordered an investigation into the clashes.

Mr Morales sent in 700 police to quell the two days of violence.

Both sides have been fighting each other with guns and dynamite.

'Flags of peace'

The fighting began when miners from an independent co-operative seized control of a state-owned mine demanding greater access.

Staff at the mine, 280km (175 miles) south of the capital La Paz, counter-attacked.

The two groups of miners had overnight on Thursday agreed to halt fighting in order to bury the dead, although the fighting then continued.

Map

But the 700-strong police force sent on Friday morning took control of Posokoni mountain where much of the fighting occurred.

"They have come down the mountain bearing flags of peace," said Lt Col Vladmir Suazmabar.

Mr Morales replaced mining minister Walter Villareol with Guillermo Dalence Salinas, who was sworn-in in a live television ceremony.

Mr Villareol is a former leader of a miners' co-operative who was seen as too closely associated to their side of the dispute, says the BBC's Damian Kahya in La Paz.

Mr Morales also sacked the head of the state-owned mining company.

Political test

Huanuni produces 5% of the world's tin.

Our correspondent says the conflict is being seen as a major test for the government of Mr Morales - who was elected in December 2005 with strong support from miners.

Bolivia is accustomed to political instability but nothing like this, especially between indigenous groups, our correspondent says.

Last month, state-employed miners blocked Bolivia's main roads, demanding more jobs in the mine.

The government negotiated an end to that blockade but is now being criticised for not sending in sufficient forces to keep the two sides from violence.

Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said: "Something that should have been a blessing for the country has been turned into a curse."


SEE ALSO
Bolivian miners clash with troops
24 Jun 03 |  Americas
Country profile: Bolivia
03 Jul 06 |  Country profiles

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