′Coup likely′ as Bolivian police make demands to government | News | DW | 24.06.2012
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'Coup likely' as Bolivian police make demands to government

More than 300 Bolivian police officers are striking across the country demanding higher pay, the sacking of the country's police chief and abolishing a law prohibiting them from freely expressing their views publically.

Communications Minister Amanda Davila said on Saturday that their actions appeared to be setting the stage for a coup.

Striking officers were hoarding guns and ammunition, asking other units to hand over their weapons to them, said Davila.

"Press reports and intelligence reports are now saying that a coup scenario is taking shape," the minister said in an interview with private Bolivian radio broadcaster, Erbol.

The transfer of arms, she said, in the cities of Cochabamba and Tarija appeared to coincide with the arrival of indigenous people in the capital on Tuesday, protesting about government plans for a road through an ecological reserve.

Talks between Interior Minister Carlos Romero and the officers stalled on Saturday, with no deal between the two sides being struck.

Failing an agreement being reached, Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra announced in a statement that military personnel would be sent into the streets to protect private property and ensure public order.

"The military police will redouble their personnel in the main cities of the country, with patrols and guards in the streets, to avoid excesses against private property," Saavedra said.

The revolt started on Thursday when striking police officials, dressed in civilian clothes and concealing their faces, stormed the offices of the country's riot police and eight other police stations. Protestors smashed windows, destroyed furniture and set flags alight. Police on duty offered no resistance.

The protestors have since moved to more than 25 police stations and command centres across the country.

Bolivia's private banking association has opted to close all banks because they lacked police or military protection.

The demonstrators are calling for the minimum wage for junior police officers to be raised to 2,000 bolivianos (287 euros, $360) from the current average of 195 euros per month.

They are also demanding a law which forbids them from freely expressing their opinions be overturned, as well as calling for the resignation of the national police chief, Colonel Victor Maldonado.

"We are not demanding crumbs, we are demanding solutions, comprehensive solutions," said Edgar Ramos, leader of the junior officers movement.

jlw/mr (AFP, Reuters)