Police guarding the presidential palace in Bolivia have abandoned their posts, in the latest blow to President Evo Morales as he tries to calm weeks of unrest. At least 3 people have been killed in protests focused on allegations of fraud in the October 20th election. Police in several cities has now joined the marchers.
CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports.
In La Paz’s main square police raised the Bolivian flag and sang the national anthem, a symbolic gesture as they declared themselves in revolt against the government, and on the side of protesters.
Awave of police rebellions began on Friday in cities across Bolivia. In a move which could be key, police officers in the seat of government, La Paz, have retreated to a police station just meters from the presidential palace they’d been guarding for the last three weeks.
The police have been in the middle of clashes between anti-government protesters and Morales supporters in the aftermath of last month’s presidential election and accusations of vote-rigging. But this officer said enough is enough:
“We are with the people,” he declared. “The government can’t use us to repress the people. The police belong to the people. We do not belong to a political party or a particular government.”
For his part, President Evo Morales blamed opposition leaders and violent groups for instigating what he calls a ‘coup’ attempt. But he also called for dialogue with political leaders:
“To preserve Bolivia, life, and democracy, I call for dialogue with the parties which have won seats in the last elections,” Morales said. “They are four parties. I call for an open debate to bring peace to Bolivia.”
But most have rejected dialogue, and Morales’ closest rival in the election race, Carlos Mesa, denied there is a coup attempt.
“There is no coup, that is a lie that the government is trying to put out to the country and the world,” Mesa said. “It’s not true. The only one who is pushing a coup is President Evo Morales when he decided to commit a monumental fraud, by trying to steal, for the second time, the popular vote from the people.”
News reports on Saturday showed groups of police in the cities of Tarija, Oruro and Bení joining their colleagues in Santa Cruz, Sucre, and Cochabamba.
At least three people have died and more than 300 have been injured in clashes since the disputed election was held on October 20th, but Friday night in La Paz, the mood was of celebration.
“We want to support the police so they feel encouraged to join us,” said student demonstrator Alexandr Jimenez.
“We are waiting for the resignation of Evo Morales,” said demonstrator Maria del Carmen.
The pressure is mounting on Morales to step down but he has refused to do so. The next hours and days could determine Bolivia’s future.