Bolivian trade unions demand investigation into Orlando Gutiérrez’s death

The mine workers union leader, Orlando Gutiérrez, was attacked by right-wing extremists last week, who rejected the results of the general elections held in Bolivia on October 18

October 30, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Orlando Gutiérrez, the executive secretary of the Union Federation of Mine Workers of Bolivia (FSTMB), died on October 28, after being hospitalized for a week due to head injuries suffered in an attack by right-wing extremists on October 22.

Bolivia’s trade union center, the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB); mine workers union, the Union Federation of Mine Workers of Bolivia (FSTMB); the Mixed Union of Mine Workers of Colquiri, among others, demand a thorough investigation into the death of union leader, Orlando Gutiérrez.

Yesterday, on October 29, in the capital La Paz, dozens of the mine workers of Colquiri held a march, demanding justice for Gutiérrez and clarification on the cause of his death. Meanwhile, hundreds of workers and union leaders from across the country joined Gutiérrez’s funeral in La Paz and burial in the Oruro city to pay tribute to the popular leader. The president-elect, Luis Arce of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party, also attended Gutiérrez’s funeral and promised to investigate the case and bring those responsible to justice.

Additionally, in order to pay homage to the union leader, the FSTMB called for a 24-hour stoppage of all mining activities throughout the country on October 29 and a 90-day national mourning.

The executive secretary of the FSTMB, Orlando Gutiérrez, died on October 28, after being hospitalized for several days due to head injuries suffered last week, on October 22. Gutiérrez, who was also a member of the executive committee of the COB, was reported to be attacked by a group of right-wing extremists who rejected the result of the general elections held on October 18, in which the MAS party won a landslide victory with 55.1% of the votes.

Gutiérrez, along with other union leaders and organizations, had consistently mobilized against the far-right coup-born government and had actively participated in the MAS election campaign. Days before the elections, Gutiérrez had warned that the miners would mobilize in case the coup regime did not respect the results. Due to his statements, he and his family received many death threats on social media networks.

It has been reported that he died as a result of the attack, but the exact cause of death remains a mystery. Gutiérrez’s family had informed that he was set to be discharged on October 28, but he died the same day. The cause of death has still not been clarified, which has raised the concerns and suspicion of his relatives and members of the trade unions about his death.

Last week, the FSTMB denounced the attack against Gutiérrez as “a revenge carried out by the fascist right-wing and its hitmen, the so-called ‘Pititas’, for the mere fact of telling the truth.”

Several social, political and union leaders have expressed their condolences on the passing of the leader.

Former president Evo Morales expressed his condolences to the family through his twitter account. “With deep sorrow, I learned about the death of comrade Orlando Gutiérrez, a young, courageous and committed miners’ leader of the historic FSTMB and a member of the Transformation Process. My heartfelt condolences and solidarity with his family,” wrote Morales in a tweet.

The president-elect, Luis Arce, upon learning of the death, also sent his sympathies. “I express my deep regret for the physical departure of brother Carlos Orlando Gutiérrez Luna (RIP). A great mining leader who has always defended the interests of the Bolivian people. My solidarity with the family in this difficult time, we accompany them in their pain,” he tweeted.

The newly elected vice president, David Choquehuanca, wrote in a tweet: “We express our sorrow, sadness and pain at the departure of our brother Carlos Orlando Gutiérrez Luna. We send all our solidarity to his family. Goodbye, miner brother!”