Po­lice guards out­side Bolivia’s pres­i­den­tial palace aban­doned their posts Satur­day, in­creas­ing pres­sure on Pres­i­dent Evo Mo­rales as he seeks to curb na­tion­wide un­rest after a dis­puted elec­tion.

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE -

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Po­lice guards out­side Bolivia’s pres­i­den­tial palace aban­doned their posts Satur­day, in­creas­ing pres­sure on Pres­i­dent Evo Mo­rales as he seeks to curb na­tion­wide un­rest after a dis­puted elec­tion.

Grow­ing dis­sen­sion in po­lice ranks posed a new threat to Mo­rales, who claimed vic­tory after the Oct. 20 vote but has since faced protests in which three peo­ple have been killed and hun­dreds in­jured.

Mo­rales faces “the most com­pli­cated mo­ment” in his 14 years in power and the sit­u­a­tion could de­te­ri­o­rate, said Jorge Du­lon, a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst at the Catholic Univer­sity of Bolivia in La Paz.

The Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States is con­duct­ing an au­dit of the elec­tion count. Find­ings are ex­pected Mon­day or Tues­day. The op­po­si­tion, which has al­leged vote-rig­ging, says it will not ac­cept the re­sults be­cause they were not con­sulted about the au­dit plan.

Po­lice units in some cities started protest­ing Fri­day, marching in the streets in uni­form as anti-gov­ern­ment pro­test­ers cheered them from the side­walks.

De­fense Min­is­ter Javier Za­baleta ini­tially played down the po­lice protests, say­ing a “po­lice mutiny oc­curred in a few re­gions.”

Gen. Wil­liams Kal­i­man, the mil­i­tary chief, said Satur­day that the mil­i­tary had no plans to in­ter­vene.

“We’ll never con­front the peo­ple among whom we live. We guar­an­tee peace­ful co-ex­is­tence,” Kal­i­man said. “This is a po­lit­i­cal prob­lem and it should be re­solved within that realm.”

A list of de­mands from dis­si­dent po­lice of­fi­cers in­cluded bet­ter work­ing con­di­tions, the res­ig­na­tion of their com­man­der and guar­an­tees that they won’t be used as a po­lit­i­cal “in­stru­ment of any gov­ern­ment.”

The spec­ta­cle of po­lice leav­ing their po­si­tions out­side the pres­i­den­tial palace was an omi­nous de­vel­op­ment for Mo­rales.

The pres­i­dent was not in the palace at the time and of­fi­cials there were evac­u­ated, leav­ing only a mil­i­tary pres­i­den­tial guard. Pro­test­ers moved peace­fully to the doors of the com­pound, but later left the area.

Mo­rales later gave a news con­fer­ence at a mil­i­tary air­port in which he ap­pealed to Bolivia’s po­lit­i­cal fac­tions to hold talks. He said the four par­ties that re­ceived the most votes in the nine-can­di­date elec­tion should sit down with “an open agenda to pacify Bolivia.”

Car­los Mesa, the main op­po­si­tion leader and a for­mer pres­i­dent, promptly re­jected the sugges­tion.

“I have noth­ing to ne­go­ti­ate with Evo Mo­rales, who has lost all grip on re­al­ity,” Mesa said.

While ap­peal­ing for di­a­logue, Mo­rales has also ac­cused his op­po­nents of try­ing to over­throw Bolivia’s right­ful gov­ern­ment.

Reuters-Yon­hap

Peo­ple shout slo­gans dur­ing a protest against Bolivia’s Pres­i­dent Evo Mo­rales in La Paz, Bolivia, Satur­day.

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