La Paz – More than 40 miners have been arrested in Bolivia after a minister was beaten to death during protests, authorities said on Friday.
Attorney General Ramiro Guerrero said five of the miners were accused of direct involvement in the killing of 55-year-old Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes, including Carlos Mamani, chairman of the national federation of mining cooperatives (Fencomin).
Prosecutors said that Illanes, 55, died after being struck multiple times.
He had been visiting the town of Panduro, 165 kilometres south-east of La Paz, when he was kidnapped by striking miners following an attempt to initiate talks with them at a roadblock.
His bodyguard was also hospitalized with a head injury.
Defence Minister Reymi Ferreira said earier on Friday that more than 100 miners had been taken into custody after the incident.
Miners, represented by independently organized cooperatives, have been using street blockades to protest a law that would allow its members to join trade unions.
The cooperatives say they are against the influence of the unions.
Fencomin, representing some 10,000 miners from 900 cooperatives, rejects any trade union influence on Bolivia’s mining sector.
They also want foreigners to be able to invest in the cooperatives and a loosening of environmental laws.
President Evo Morales has announced three days of mourning. (dpa/NAN)