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Bolivia deploys troops to counter coup threat

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Bolivia's military ordered troops into the streets of major cities Saturday following a police mutiny over a pay dispute that the government said appeared to be setting the stage for a coup attempt.

Communications Minister Amanda Davila said the striking police were stockpiling weapons and pressuring other units to turn over their arms, calling it a “coup scenario.”

“Press reports and intelligence reports are now saying that a coup scenario is taking shape,” she said in an interview with Erbol radio, a private broadcaster.

“What gets our attention is that the police are putting weapons in police units where there were none before, they are pressuring other units to turn over their weapons,” she said.

She tied the reported movements of arms in the cities of Cochabamba and Tarija to the arrival in the capital Tuesday of a march by indigenous people protesting plans for a road through an ecological reserve.

“It's a total lie,” said police sergeant Javier Quispe, a spokesman for the strikers, of the coup charge. “We want to tell the public it's not like that. This is a just demand for a fair salary.”

Davila's comments came after talks between Interior Minister Carlos Romero and striking officers stalled early Saturday with no agreement in sight.

Romero said there were two ways of solving the crisis — through dialogue or confrontation and violence. “We are preserving the first path,” he said, calling on the police to do the same and avoid violence.

Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra, meanwhile, announced that the military was sending more troops into the streets to protect private property and ensure public order.

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