Workers' Control in Latin America, 1930-1979

By Jonathan C. Brown | Go to book overview

government. Siles aggravated the situation by attempting to foster rivalries within the Miners' Federation and the Bolivian Workers' Central. The ruling coalition soon deteriorated into various factions, paving the way for a U.S.- backed military takeover.

New forms of repression occurred after November 1964, when a reconstituted army under Gen. René Barrientos Otuño seized power. The Miners' Federation initially supported the coup, but within six months Barrientos showed his true colors. He announced major wage cuts for the miners and sent troops to occupy the mining centers. The army stationed one hundred troops at Chojlla and imprisoned two hundred workers. In other mining centers, the military again perpetrated horrible massacres to subdue the workers. The economic situation of the mines did improve, but the policies of the governments, with one brief exception, remained antilabor until 1982. Thus the miners did not share in the new prosperity of the mines. Through the 1980s, runaway inflation, a new stabilization program, and the evaporation of world demand for Bolivian minerals, especially tin, resulted in massive layoffs of miners and the closing of many mines. Today what remains of the Bolivian mining proletariat struggles as it did before 1950, while building alliances that in the long run will offset the power of international capital. Only then will the miners of Bolivia again wield the control they enjoyed immediately following the revolution.


Notes

A grant from the Tinker Foundation enabled me to conduct preliminary research in Bolivia; a Fulbright grant allowed me to continue my research. I also wish to express my gratitude to the staffs of the Sistema de Documentación e Información Sindical, the International Mining Company, the Archivo de La Paz, and the libraries of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés and the Asoclación Nacional de Mineros Medianos (all in La Paz, Bolivia), as well as the subjects of my interviews. Thanks are also due Alan Knight and Erick Langer, who read and criticized earlier drafts of this chapter.

1.
Walter Gómez D'Angelo, La minería en el desarrollo económico de Bolivia, 1900- 1970 ( La Paz, 1978), 32, 209.
2.
Minería Boliviana ( La Paz) 9, no. 64 ( May-June 1957): 12; Gómez, La minería en el desarrollo, 65-66.
3.
Gómez, La minería en el desarrollo, 85; Minería Boliviana 9, no. 64 ( May-June 1957): 12.
4.
David J. Fox, "Bolivian Mining, a Crisis in the Making," in Miners and Mining in the Americas, ed. Thomas Greaves and William Culver ( Manchester, England, 1985), 111; Gómez, La minería en el desarrollo, 33, 93; Manuel Contreras, "La mano de obraen la minería estañífera: Aspectos cuantitativos, c. 1935-1945,"

-238-

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