Bolivian protesters in Potosi have been on strike for 11 days and counting, and officials and human rights advocates say that the strike is starting to take its toll on the city, which is home to more than 130,000 people.
Access to Potosi has been blocked by thousands of protesters wielding rocks, sticks and debris, who seek more economic development funding. The strikers are demanding a new airport, hospital and cement factory, as well as an audience with President Evo Morales.
Potosi, a city famous for its mining industry, is suffering due to decreased demand for its key mineral exports.
The mountain Potosi lies at the foot of, Cerro Rico, holds the world’s largest silver deposit which has been mined since the sixteenth century. It is estimated that as much as 60,000 tonnes of ore in the mountain remains to be extracted.
Local media have reported that Potosi has almost run out of petrol, food and money. The Associated Press reported Ernesto Cardenas of the Assembly of Human Rights as saying bread, meat and vegetables are running out in the city.
About 100 foreigners were stranded in the city due to picket lines, among them Argentine tourists who had travelled for Pope Francis’s visit, a French group doing volunteer work, as well as three British and one Russian citizens.
“Despite efforts that have already been made to leave the department by land, these efforts have not succeeded,” government minister Carlos Romero told Agence France-Presse.
Police were working to get the group of tourists out of town by bus, according to Justin Walley, one of the English tourists who spoke to AFP.