Bolivia: Assembly of Factories, Conflicts in Mining and Health Care

The Huanuni miners’ months-long claim over owed wages has been compounded in Bolivia by a series of struggles in the private sector. So much so that the COB has asked the Federations and Departments about the number of conflicts, lay-offs and violations of labor legislation. The COB leadership says it consults “in order to take the necessary actions,” without specifying what they are. They have taken notice quite late, after the white massacres of the bosses and the State.

The situation is critical, so much so that the National Assembly of the CGTFB, the Confederation of Factory Workers, has been convened for Wednesday the 16th and Thursday the 17th. The rescheduled convention comes after months of pandemic, which the bosses have taken advantage of to advance with their white massacre by laying off thousands of workers. In addition to suspensions, salary reductions or unpaid wages, loss of gains, along with infections and deaths from COVID-19.

That is why Altifiber’s workers continue to protest. They ask that the ministerial resolution for their immediate reincorporation be fulfilled and they managed to stop a police attempt to evict them with a tractor, against the booths built at the door of the factory, where they remain.

In turn, Duralit and Prosil workers have been without salary for months, just like Vidrio Lux, which confirmed the definitive closure of its glass container production plant in Cochabamba. Workers from the Tomy tannery, a shoe producer, are also protesting in this district. For this reason, on the 9th there was an important mobilization of factory workers from Duralit, Prosil, Vidrio Lux, Sendtex, Auto Móvil Club and Tomy. While in Santa Cruz, workers of the oilseed Rico-IOL demand payments and those laid off from Industrias Belén carry out a blockade, due to the breach of their reinstatement.

Serious problems in the mining sector

In Huanuni, the miners held an assembly on Wednesday the 9th because they are owed three months of wages, due to the historic debt of the Vinto company with the state mining company, due to the negligence of the central State, by not injecting funds into the Vinto Smelter and thus recovering the lost mineral markets. A policy that was sustained by Evo´s governments and now by Áñez, leading these companies to crisis.

Many times, the Vinto Mining Workers’ Union has denounced that, since this foundry was nationalized, no operating or start-up capital has been received, despite promises to provide that financial support and advance in the industrialization of mining.

Recent reports indicate that, between 2006 and 2019, sales for 13 years of Bolivian mineral exports exceeded US $ 40 billion, for 19 million tons. With the highest peak in 2019, with $ 4.25 billion in sales, and a 48% share of the country’s total exports. Which clearly shows the value of mining for Bolivia. With only 0.2% of the income from these million dollar sales, the total salary debt to Huanuni is covered.

In addition, if Añez was able to give US $ 100 million to the Santa Cruz employers of the Eastern Agricultural Chamber, in a loan that will not be reimbursed and will be paid by the people to the IDB; she should just as well give the US $ 80 million to cancel all the debt with the mining families of Huanuni and Colquiri.

In the private sector, the Paititi mining company in Santa Cruz had already carried out a white massacre with the “disengagement” of 220 workers. The Union rejected the layoffs and the Mining Federation demanded, at the end of August, to reinstate all the Paititi Mining Metallurgical Union workers and protested in front of the courthouse.

Due to COVID, Minera San Cristóbal in Potosí, which belongs to the Sumitomo Corporation, one of the largest industrial groups in Japan, suspended its operations for the third time in the Toldos camp, near the municipality of Colcha K, being one of the biggest zinc, lead and silver deposits in the world. Even the Oruro mining cooperatives took over the facilities of the regional Mining Corporation, COMIBOL, on Friday. Joaquín Andrade, president of COMIBOL, has been denounced once again for trying to hand over state mining areas, hiring family members and creating new positions.

It is necessary to advance in paying all workers’ owed wages and implementing a reactivation plan, democratically resolved by the workers, with the expropriation and nationalization of private and transnational companies, among them the mining companies that concentrate the business due to the historic jump in the international price of gold, with billion-dollar revenues [1] that leave the country and regions only 1.5%, 3% or 5%. In addition, it is necessary to invest in its industrialization to generate added value in all mining production.

Health protests and other conflicts

In the health sector, on Friday the 11th, the CNS nurses held a sit-down strike demanding a salary level according to their professional training. Meanwhile, the Medical Union of the National Health Fund (CNS) threatens to take measures in rejection to the change of the regional management of La Paz. They denounce that this causes a delay in meeting their demands, such as providing supplies, reagents, biosafety equipment, replacing affected personnel, expanding infrastructure, and discontinuing acquisitions and hiring, which threatens personnel and public health.

Meanwhile in Tarija, health workers continue on a hunger strike in the Guadalquivir center. They denounce that the contracts promised by the Ministry of Health did not arrive for those who are on the front line against COVID-19, their salaries are not being deposited and they have not been paid. And on the 5th, in Cochabamba, there was an important march of health professionals and workers for salaries, life insurance and the provision of biosafety equipment. This, when the Medical College of Bolivia reports that 140 professionals have died, ranking as the second country in Latin America with the most doctors killed by coronavirus.

In the heavy transportation sector of Santa Cruz, workers alerted that mobilizations could begin if YPFB, Yacimientos Petrolifos Fiscales Bolivianos, does not resolve the shortage of diesel in the department, which complicates the transport of food, agriculture and industries. There is a shortage in Potosí and also concern in Oruro.

In turn, environmentalists denounce forest fires in six municipalities of Santa Cruz, blaming agribusiness. Meanwhile, a Popular Action is being promoted against decrees 4232 and 4238, which endorse transgenic seeds in Bolivia. In that same department, workers are protesting the return of their contributions to the Pension Fund Administration (AFP), and they are evaluating radicalizing their protest and blocking the roads.

Assembly of Factories, resume the fight against the government and capitalist austerity

In this scenario of conflicts and before the National Assembly of Factories, there are media that announce that Juan Carlos Huarachi, of the COB, could attend. A federation that only seems to be concerned about the complaint they made in the Court of The Hague, when those are only provocations among agreements. Because here the situation of union bureaucrats or a supposed fascist government is not at stake, as they want to falsely make it look. But the jobs, wages, health and other claims of thousands and thousands of workers and poor people due to the betrayal of that leadership.

But this Assembly appears as an opportunity to demand that the fight for health, work, salaries, for a guaranteed social income and health care for all the people be resumed. And to fight for Áñez and her ministers to step down, against the pact and the co-government with the MAS in Parliament, beyond mutual criticisms, such as the credit of US $ 327 million from the IMF that entered the Central Bank in April, supposedly without the authorization of the Legislative Assembly. If these resources are available, they are essential in the face of the health emergency and social needs. They cannot be used for campaign disputes.

The struggle must be resumed. The workers united, will never be defeated! Job stability! Struggle until victory! It is time for new leaders, removing the treacherous leaderships that respond to the MAS and other politics in the CGTFB, General Confederation of Factory Workers of Bolivia, headed by Vicente Pacosillo. And the COB must respond to the rank and file mandate for these urgent demands and for the unity of the struggles.

This crisis will not be solved with presidential candidate debates, very concentrated on their campaigns, but far from the people´s demands. They organize electoral caravans, but they turn their backs on marches, strikes and protests. From Catacora of the MAS, to former president Mesa of the right, along with other advocates of austerity like Áñez or Tuto Quiroga, they have nothing new to offer in their campaigns as a way out of the crisis, other than continuing to discharge it on the backs of the working class , peasants and peoples.

The “campaign” we need is to support and unite all struggles. To ensure that each company or factory that closes, suspends or dismisses is nationalized and begins to operate under the control of its workers. Immediate reinstatement of all dismissed. For the full and timely payment of wages in mines like Huanuni and in all companies. No more salary debts in the pandemic. For a bonus or guaranteed social income for all workers, in accordance with the family basket.

There is plenty of money and it must go to salaries, healthcare, jobs, education and investment in COMIBOL and all the mines. Defense and reactivation of state companies. For an economic and social workers and people´s emergency plan. That is the way, together with the unity of the entire coherent left, to propose an alternative in Bolivia in favor of the working people.

ISL Correspondent

[1] In 2019, more than 12,105 million bolivianos in gold were exported for about 38.7 tons, 8 companies concentrating 84% of exports. In this 2020, there are 22 trading companies that exported gold. Among the main ones are the Company Bolivia Precious Metales S.A, Boligroup Traiders S.R.L, Goldway S.R.L, Unión 6 de Agosto S.R.L., Golden Rain S.R.L., Yellow Tree S.R.L, Koryaliri S.R.L. and Chama Khory S.R.L.