Looting breaks out as Bolivian police protest against meager salaries
June 24, 2012, 12:05 am TWN
LA PAZ, Bolivia--Looting broke out near Bolivia's presidential palace Friday as junior members of the police force angry over low wages joined a nationwide mutiny.
A crowd of some 200 officers, wearing civilian clothes and covering their faces, attacked the National Intelligence Directorate, smashing windows and pulling out furniture, documents, computers and even setting flags on fire.
The Directorate, which also houses the police disciplinary board, is located one block from the main square in La Paz, where the presidential palace is located.
"Mutiny, police mutiny!" chanted the protesters as they ransacked the office.
Some 20 police stations in the country's ten main cities, including La Paz and Cochabamba, have joined the uprising. On Thursday, protestors took over the headquarters of the country's riot police, as well as eight other police stations.
In an upscale La Paz neighborhood, roughly 300 protesters hurled rocks and shattered windows at national police headquarters. Police on duty outside the building offered no resistance.
The protesters, some of whom marched with their wives, also demanded the resignation of national police chief, Colonel Victor Maldonado.
They are demanding to negotiate directly with President Evo Morales, who was in the presidential palace under heavy military protection.
Interior Minister Carlos Romero, however, said in a statement that the government was willing to raise pay and engage in a "dialogue to find solutions."
Police currently earn an average of US$195 a month, and want their lowest pay raised to US$287 a month. Demands also include full pay upon retirement.