LA PAZ – President Evo Morales offered Friday to increase the pay of thousands of mutinous cops who sacked a police building 100 meters (yards) from the presidential palace.
Morales returned early from the U.N. environmental conference in Brazil to address the police crisis, Interior Minister Carlos Romero told reporters.
“He has expressly instructed us to work, to effectuate attention to the requirements of the police,” the minister said.
Leaders of the mutiny claim to represent a majority of the 30,000 rank and file and non-commissioned officers, or around 85 percent of the national police.
The disgruntled cops want to be paid commensurately with their counterparts in the armed forces, as well as bigger pensions, the repeal of a disciplinary process they say is stacked against them and the creation of an ombud’s office within the police force.
Romero said he told the leaders of the mutiny that the government proposes to increase their pay to $287 a month, compared with $178 currently.
Bolivia, one of the poorest nations in Latin America, has a statutory minimum salary of $144 a month, while median pay in 2011 was around $546 monthly.
Urging the mutineers to “suspend the acts of violence,” Romero said authorities have been in contact with the rebel police since Thursday night.
A leader of the protest, Edgar Ramos, said the government needs to put its proposals in writing and Guadalupe Cardenas, speaking for the wives of the mutinous police, insisted on direct talks with Morales.
Hours before Romero offered the pay raise, hundreds of cops and their wives sacked a building that housed the police intelligence division and disciplinary tribunal, setting files, computers and furniture on fire and destroying doors and windows.
The building was targeted because the disciplinary tribunal is very hard on low-ranking police accused of violating rules, spokespeople for the movement said.
Police – even traffic cops – remained absent from the streets of La Paz, where many banks and shops closed early on Friday. The presidential palace was on lockdown and under the protection of several squadrons of military police. EFE