Riot policemen and miners clash in Panduro, Bolivia.

Story highlights

Miners are protesting for a right to work directly with private companies

Rodolfo Illanes, the deputy minister of interior, was killed Thursday

CNN  — 

Bolivian miners kidnapped and fatally beat a government minister who was seeking talks with them following weeks of protests, authorities say.

Rodolfo Illanes, the deputy minister of interior, was killed Thursday in Panduro, where he was meeting with miners who had been striking and blockading roads since August 10, according to the attorney general’s office.

Three miners have died since the beginning of the protests, state-run ABI reported. The miners are protesting for their right to work directly with private companies.

Bolivian President Evo Morales described the deputy minister as “a hero of natural resources” and declared three days of national mourning.

“It was a cowardly act – he was kidnapped, tortured and killed,” Morales said. “It’s unforgivable, and I don’t understand how our brothers can hurt us in such a way.”

Five people, including a leader representing miners, were arrested Friday in relation to the killing. An additional 40 miners are under investigation.

Orlando Gutiérrez, president of the Mine Workers Federation of Bolivia, condemned the killing, ABI reported.

The autopsy report indicates Illanes was tortured for six to seven hours, and suffered strikes all over his body, according to Ramiro Guerrero, the attorney general of Bolivia.

He also had multiple broken ribs and puncturing of his skull, Guerrero said in a statement.

Authorities also found “a large quantity of explosives,” some buried underground in the area where Illanes’ body was recovered.

Panduro is about 150 km (93 miles) from La Paz.