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International Socialist Review, Winter 1965


Interview With Bolivian Miner

Vivid Account of the Battle of Sora-Sora


From International Socialist Review, Vol.26 No.1, Winter 1965, p.27.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


During a trip to the mine centers of Catavi and Siglo Veinte, a special correspondent from World Outlook interviewed V.E., a member of the Partido Obrero Revolucionario, Bolivian section of the Fourth International, and other miners who were with him at the battle of Sora-Sora. On the table of the small room where the interview took place, a machine gun, captured from the government troops at Sora-Sora, lay rather symbolically in full sight. The following is a translation of the interview.

* * *

Question: When did the miners begin to mobilize?

Answer: They began mobilizing as soon as the news reached Siglo Veinte-Catavi about the demonstrations in Oruro and the repressions by the police and the army. We heard that people had been killed and wounded and that fights had broken out even during the funerals for the victims. Actually the news we heard was that there were a lot of dead and wounded which explains why the miners reacted so quickly and so violently.

Q: What was their reaction concretely?

A: The evening of the twenty-eighth [of October] they began to mobilize. During the night, 150 to 200 miners left Siglo Veinte in three trucks in the direction of Huanuni-Oruro armed with dynamite and old guns. A truck left at the same time from Catavi. During the same night they reached Huanuni where there was a concentration of forces. A discussion developed between the cadres of the CP [Communist party] – who are in the majority at Siglo Veinte – and the Trotskyist militants (adherents of the Partido Revolucionario Obrero, Bolivian section of the Fourth International, and of the newspaper Masas, the tendency led by Guillermo Lora].

Q: What was the discussion about?

A: The partisans of the CP didn’t want to proceed into combat. Their fundamental argument was: the Trotskyists are armed the best so let them go first. So a truckload of Trotskyists moved to the head of the convoy. Two other trucks followed. At Sora-Sora they separated to go by different routes.

Q: Where was the army?

A: The army was on the other side of Sora-Sora and actually the first truck made contact with them right after leaving the village. Someone shouted at the first truck to stop. But at the same time the soldiers started shooting at the truck. It was still dark. The miners jumped out immediately and tried to hide along the side of the road. But seven – all of them Trotskyists – were wounded.

Q: And the other trucks?

A: One went as far as Machacamarca. But later the militants of the CP returned to Huanuni.

Meanwhile the men in the first truck got a truckdriver to take the wounded. In the morning everybody returned to Huanuni and started accusing the militants of the CP for not helping the first truck when it was attacked by the army.

Q: What happened then at Catavi and Siglo Veinte?

A: The radio station at Huanuni, controlled by the miners, broadcast the news about the first encounter. The situation was confused. They talked about sixty dead. This was when other trucks left Catavi and Siglo Veinte. I was in one of these trucks.

We reached Huanuni around eleven o’clock while other people were arriving. After a quick lunch, we left the town and got to Sora-Sora around noon.

Q: And then?

A: We decided to advance on foot across the pampa [open flats], armed with dynamite and guns. We moved toward Machacamarca.

After feeding those who hadn’t eaten at Huanuni, a meeting was held in which almost 200 miners participated. We had reached a crossroad.

Q: How did the meeting turn out?

A: Ordonez, who is the leader of the CP at Siglo Veinte and at the same time the main trade-union leader, proposed we shouldn’t go any further and about a hundred men, more or less, answered by getting into their trucks. The others, the Trotskyists and the miners who liked their attitude decided to go ahead. Later the partisans of the CP followed in turn.

Meanwhile a lot of other miners showed up. [The total number of miners involved was around 3,000. Some contingents of peasants joined them, according to reports. They went across the pampa, occupying the surrounding hills.] The CP people switched back and forth a little, going back and then moving ahead again.

Q: And the army?

A: The encounter took place quite rapidly. The miners started attacking with dynamite, moving against a hill where a military contingent was entrenched and they defeated them. One soldier dropped, killed. The other soldiers began to run in a disorganized way, dropping their arms. They didn’t want to fight. Some of them fired, but in the air, without hurting the miners. The miners captured some prisoners and a lot of arms.

Q: Did the miners try to advance towards Oruro?

A: No. There the army had really moved in a much bigger force, and brought up artillery. At the same time, it began to blow very hard and there were such clouds of dust that you couldn’t see anything. The miners decided by a majority vote to return to their bases despite an opposing opinion held by some.

On its side, the army decided to stay in its positions and not to come to Huanuni, not to speak of Siglo Veinte and Catavi.

Q: Did the miners return to Catavi-Siglo Veinte?

A: Yes, they returned and the population was waiting for them, worried because there had been talk of a massacre.

Later a meeting was held to draw up a balance sheet. Ordonez, the secretary of the union and a member of the CP, wasn’t able to speak. They shouted at him: “Nurse. Servant girl.” [He drove an ambulance during the struggle.] The report was made by a Trotskyist.

Well, those are the main facts. The miners now feel stronger and more confident than ever.

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