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  HOME | Bolivia

Mutinous Cops Clash with Government Supporters in Bolivia

LA PAZ Ė Thousands of Bolivian police who launched a mutiny last week to demand big pay hikes clashed Monday with supporters of President Evo Morales.

The rebellious cops rejected an agreement reached by their representatives and the government in talks Sunday night.

Police protests continued Monday in La Paz, Sucre, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba, Potosi, Trinidad, Tarija and Oruro, media outlets said, even as hundreds of Morales supporters streamed into the capital to defend his administration against what the leftist president is calling an attempted coup.

Some of the Morales partisans tried to enter Murillo Square, where Congress and the presidential palace sit, but were violently repulsed by mutinous police, who have been dug-in since last Thursday at a barracks on a nearby street.

Brandishing their guns, the cops then marched past the presidentís office.

Last Friday, hundreds of mutineers and their wives sacked a building in La Paz that housed the police intelligence division and disciplinary tribunal, setting files, computers and furniture on fire and destroying doors and windows.

Though the president said initially he would keep the army off the street to avoid confrontations between soldiers and cops, the defense ministry announced Saturday that military police would begin patrolling Bolivian cities.

Police cadets were seen directing traffic in La Paz and some banks hired private security guards to replace the striking cops usually assigned to such duties.

One leader of the mutineers, Pascual Llanos, told Radio Erbol that the accord presented Sunday night was rejected because negotiators failed to keep the rank and file informed about the talks.

The pact called for giving low-ranking officers an additional $32 a month in cash and for continuing to give them free food twice a year, instead of only once annually.

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 and are also demanding bigger pensions, repeal of a disciplinary process they say is stacked against them and creation of an ombudís office within the police force.

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. EFE
 

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