Bolivian miners resist latest coup

Bolivia's mine workers have long been the min force in opposition to the country's military. In the 1950s they effectively trounced the Army in pitched battles that led to establishment of moderate reformist government under Victor Paz Estenssoro and Hernan Siles Zuazo. Last November, when an Army colonel seized power, toppling civilian government, public opinion led by the miners ended the military interregnum after 16 days.

Now, a week after the military staged yet another coup d'etat, the miners are again offering resistanceto the new military rule.

Strikes, demonstrations, and armed conflict are part of the resistance. The important tin, copper, silver, and tungsten mines are closed.

Whether the miners' opposition will be enough to bring down the military government or force it to alter course remains to be seen. But miners are angry that the military has once again brazenly seized power and thus sidetracked the democratic process.

The miners are an elite in bolivia -- better paid, better aroused, and better educated than the bulk of bolivians, who are descendants of the original Aymara and Quechua Indians of the area.

But Indians in silver-mining Potosi Province have joined in antimilitary demonstrations. Several thousand Indians are carrying sticks and rocks.

The mine workers are also supported by the Confederacion de Trabajadores Bolivianos (CTB), the country's main union. But Juan Lechin Oquenda, CTB president, urged members to go back to work and allow time to heal disagreements with the government. Why he took this stand is unclear. In the past he has been one of the fiercest opponents of the military.

Unofficial estimates put death toll in the first week of military rule at more than 1,000 persons.

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