Miners block main highways in Bolivia, capturing policemen

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Over 5,000 members of mining cooperatives armed with explosives and rifles continue to block the main highways in six of Bolivia's nine departments, capturing dozens of policemen, officials said on Thursday.

The departments of La Paz, Oruro, Cochabamba, Potosi, Chiquisaca and Santa Cruz are impassable due to the extreme measures being taken by the cooperative members that are demanding modifications to a law, Interior Minister Carlos Romero told a press conference.

Eleven routes from La Paz to Oruro and Cochabamba remain sealed off by miners who are protesting the change to a law which they claim weakens their rights and limits the power of cooperative in the sector.

The minister said the members are "heavily armed" and have committed a series of crimes, including kidnapping.

On Wednesday, in the town of Mantecani, near La Paz, over 40 policemen were captured and later beaten, Romero said.

The minister also said deals between mining cooperatives and private sector companies are not allowed by the constitution, and claimed that the real objective of the protest is "blackmail."

President Evo Morales on Thursday instructed flights to be arranged, at half the price, for those people affected by the road blocks.

The miners began blocking roads on Wednesday and their protest turned violent in the afternoon when they took police officers hostage, torturing them and stealing their equipment before releasing them early Thursday. Endi

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