Reports: Bolivian minister beaten to death by striking miners

Government said that the 56-year-old had been kidnapped and was at risk of being tortured

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Bolivian Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes was beaten to death by striking mineworkers after being kidnapped, local media reported on Thursday, citing a radio station director who said he saw his body.

His death has not been confirmed officially. “We still have not confirmed the situation of this official, if he is alive or deceased,” Bolivian state prosecutor Ramiro Guerrero said in broadcast comments from a news conference in Sucre on Thursday evening.

However, the government has said that the 56-year-old Illanes had been kidnapped and was at risk of being tortured after he went to talk to protesters earlier on Thursday in Panduro, around 160 km (100 miles) from capital La Paz.

“We have been able to see close up that vice-minister Illanes was dead. Colleagues told us that he had died of a beating,” Moises Flores, the director of a mining radio station, told local radio.

Protests by miners in Bolivia demanding changes to laws turned violent this week after a highway was blockaded. Two workers were killed on Wednesday after being shot by police, and the government said 17 police officers had been wounded.

The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives of Bolivia (FENCOMIN), once strong allies of leftist President Evo Morales, began what they said would be an indefinite protest after negotiations over mining legislation failed. Protesters have been demanding more mining concessions, the right to work for private companies, and greater union representation.

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