Bolivia: Potosi General Strike Paralyzes Mining Town

Revolution News, By Erin Gallagher, July 16

Today marks 9 days since a general strike began in Potosi, Bolivia. The Civic Committee Potosina (Comcipo) after walking for 12 days, arrived in La Paz on July 7 asking for an audience with President Evo Morales. Meanwhile in Potosi, massive marches are ongoing and a general strike is in effect which has paralyzed the Bolivian mining town.

Potosi sits at the bottom of Cerro Rico (rich mountain), which is known as the worlds largest silver deposit however the poverty rate in the department of Potosi is one of the highest in the country. 66.7% of the Potosi population lives in extreme poverty. 64% of the municipalities in rural areas are in extreme poverty and some municipalities reach poverty levels of 90%.

Child mortality rates are also the highest in the country: for every 1000 live child births, 101 babies die. Chronic malnutrition affects 38.8% of the population. According to a 2003 study by the Bolivian National Statistic Institute, 98% of local children under 5 years old developed diarrhea and intestinal problems.

The Cerro Rico mines employ an estimated 15,000 miners and is known as “the mountain that eats men” due the number of workers who have died there. An average of 20 people die each month from work related accidents at the Potosi Mines of Cerro Rico. Life expectancy for miners in Potosi is a shocking 40 years old due to dangerous working conditions and illnesses caused by breathing in silica dust or asbestos. These statistics are only part of the social conflicts affecting Potosi today.

A list of 26 demands from November 2014 is presented as the main point of negotiation of the current conflicts in Potosi. The list includes items such as hospitals, bridge and road construction, wind power, a garbage recycling plant, medical items for doctors and nurses, an international airport, preservation of Cerro Rico, a cement factory, a glass factory, hydroelectric plants and educational items for social workers, teachers and psychologists.

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