THE plight of the Bolivian tin miners was highlighted earlier this week with the publication of The Great Tin Crash by the Latin American Bureau.
Bolivia is the poorest country in the western hemisphere save for Haiti, and its citizens have a life expectancy of just 54.
The recent crash in the price of tin, a commodity on which much of Bolivia depends for its livelihood, has brought increased misery to many and has exacerbated the tension between the miners and the government, which is usually represented in these cases by the military.
The miners have been backed by a chain of Catholic radio stations, including the Pio XII station, which has supported the miners throughout their struggles.
A previous director of the station, Fr Gregario Irearate, is a priest who has consistently championed the miners' cause and has often spoken out against government heavy-handedness in labour disputes.
The Pope is due to visit Bolivia next year, and his trip is regularly previewed by the Catholic daily paper, Presencia.
Many human rights groups hope that the Holy Father will speak out against the gulfs between rich and poor, and the conditions of the miners as outlined in the recent book.
The mining industry has been in steady decline for many years, and the Bolivian economy has suffered heavily. Inflation in 1985 was running at over 8,000 per cent.
The hard-line economic policies instituted by the government in recent years have so far only increased hardship for the miners, many of whom now live on only one meal a day.