Striking Bolivian police clash with government supporters
By Carlos Quiroga
LA PAZ (Reuters) - Striking police fired tear gas to keep supporters of President Evo Morales from rallying at the main square in Bolivia's capital on Monday on the fourth day of a mutiny over wages by lower-ranking police officers.
Morales, a leftist leader who is Bolivia's first indigenous president, has faced increasingly thorny social conflicts in the past year in the Andean nation, but ruled out deploying troops to end the police rebellion.
His government reached a pay agreement on Sunday with leaders of the police protest, but the officer rank and file rejected the deal demanding higher wages, local media reported.
"Unfortunately, the president hasn't resolved anything yet," one striking policeman told television reporters. "We are thinking of taking more extreme measures."
Police dressed in civilian clothes and wearing ski masks to hide their faces used tear gas to force back worker and farmers who gathered for a rally in support of Morales in the square outside the presidential palace.
"Our march was peaceful but we were dispersed with gases and sticks. The rebel police aren't fighting for salaries, this is political," the leader of the Farmers Federation, Roberto Coraite, told local radio.
Morales has accused his political opponents of being behind the violent mutiny in which dozens of police officers have been hurt and several police stations destroyed.
But he vowed to avoid a repeat of a police protest in 2003 that was quashed by the military, causing dozens of deaths. Continued...