The Bolivian government said on Thursday that Deputy Interior Minister Rodolfo Illanes had been beaten to death by miners on strike who had kidnapped him earlier. Minister of Government Carlos Romero said Illanes had gone to speak to the protesting mineworkers in Panduro, around 160 km from capital city La Paz. "At this present time, all indications are that our deputy minister was brutally and cowardly murdered," he said, adding that they were trying to recover his body, Reuters reported.

According to Defence Minister Reymi Ferreira, Illanes was "beaten and tortured to death" while his assistant, who had managed to escape, was being treated in a hospital in La Paz. Around 100 people have been arrested so far, he added, promising that the "crime will not go unpunished".

Most miners in what is one of South America's poorest countries work for cooperatives and make a measly living. The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives of Bolivia, which used to be a strong ally of President Evo Morales, is on an indefinite protest, demanding changes in mining laws, such as mining concessions with less restrictive environmental rules, greater union representation and the right to work for private companies. The agitations turned violent on Wednesday after protesters blocked a highway. Two miners were killed in police firing, and 17 officers were injured.