Bolivian police end rebellion after pay deal reached

Carlos Quiroga, LA PAZ | Wed Jun 27

(Reuters) - Bolivia's police ended a violent mutiny and went back to work on Wednesday after reaching an accord with government ministers and the police leadership on pay and disciplinary rules, satisfying lower-ranking officers who had rejected a previous deal.

Dozens of police officers were hurt and several police stations were destroyed in the five-day rebellion in the natural gas-exporting South American country that has a history of coups and violent conflicts.

It was the latest in a string of conflicts testing leftist President Evo Morales, who is midway through a second five-year term.

The agreement raises the minimum wage for the country's roughly 32,000 police officers to about $300 a month and scraps tough new disciplinary rules until an alternative scheme can be approved with the participation of lower-ranking officers.

The deal overrode an earlier accord signed on Sunday that many rank-and-file officers shunned, continuing their occupation of most police barracks nationwide.

"With this, the mutiny is over. The final accord, which was reviewed with all our members, is signed. ... Police services will return to normal," said officer Esther Corzon, one of the representatives of the protesting police who signed the deal.

Morales, who often blames social protests on political rivals, had accused the rebel police of trying to destabilize Bolivia. He vowed to avoid a repeat of a police protest in 2003 that was quashed by the military, causing dozens of deaths.

The respite did not last long, however. A group of indigenous activists marching toward La Paz for the past two months entered the city later on Wednesday, clashing briefly with anti-riot place.

They are protesting against a plan to build a road through the Amazon forest. The movement has lost some steam since a similar march took place last year, shaking Morales' government and prompting him to halt the project.

Some local Morales supporters staged a counter-march to defend the president, who does not plan to meet the demonstrators. They said they would remain in the highland city until the government met their demands.

Earlier this month, clashes between rival miners broke out at a Bolivian tin and zinc mine owned by global commodities giant Glencore after several weeks of protests.

Morales responded by having the state take control of the mine's operations. This cooled tempers domestically but upset Glencore due to a lack of compensation.

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