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France - Bolivia

French volunteers trapped in Bolivian mine strike

Miners in La Paz, Bolivia, in 2014
Miners in La Paz, Bolivia, in 2014 Reuters

Twenty French volunteers are trapped in the southern region of La Paz in Bolivia as miners there enter their 11th day of strike. There are just under 100 foreigners who are stuck in the town of Potosi, as dialogue between protestors and government officials is in gridlock.

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The strike has intensified over the last few days, as thousands of strikers have blocked main roads of access to the region of La Paz, limiting food distribution to the population there.

In addition to the French volunteers, 70 Argentines, three Brits and one Russian are among the other foreigners caught in the conflict.

Many Argentines were in Bolivia for Pope Francis's visit to the region this month.

The Bolivian government has announced a start to talks Friday with the region's governor, mayors and unions opposed to the strike. They also invited the strikers, driven by a local group of unions and social organisations called Comité Cívico Potosinista (Comcipo), to join talks with the goal of finding a resolution.

The protestors demand a renewed governmental support for funding in the region with the construction of a cement factory, renovation projects for the Cerro Rico mine, the construction of an international airport and that of specialised hospitals.

The strike has paralysed the mine run by Manquiri, a branch of the American company Coeur d'Alene Mines. It also threatens the activities of San Cristobal, a subsidiary of Sumitomo Metal, a Japanese company that produces zinc and nickel.

The Bolivian Senate tweeted this week denouncing acts of vandalism at Potosi and calling strikers to the table for talks.

Potosi features as one of UNESCO's heritage sites and remains a symbol of Colonial splendor in Latin America. This city is renowned for its mining industry as it had the largest industrial complex in the world in the 16th century thanks to its silver and tin mines. They are still in use today.

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