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Bolivia police deny reaching deal, vow to 'carry on with the mutiny'

LA PAZ--Police in Bolivia vowed Sunday to press on with a four day old mutiny, spurning a pay deal struck by the government and union leaders, as President Evo Morales accused the opposition of plotting a coup.

Since Thursday, low-ranking officers in this impoverished Latin American country have rioted to demand an increase in salary. Authorities, meanwhile, accuse them of stockpiling weapons and pressuring other units to turn over their arms in an attempt to overthrow the leftist government.

On Sunday, Morales alleged that those on strike, in partnership with the opposition, had plans to kill Interior Minister Carlos Romero and attack the military with Molotov cocktails.

“The right wants there to be a death,” Morales told supporters in a mining town south of the capital La Paz. “Everyone is going to defend this (political) process, we are part of this process and we will defend (it) to the bitter end.”

Morales' remarks came after Romero announced at dawn that the government had signed a deal on new salary terms and that officers had agreed to end their mutiny in key cities.

“Our dialogue with the police has ended and we were able to reach sound agreements in order to overcome this police crisis that has taken place in recent days,” Romero told a press conference.

“I want to say to our colleagues that we must restore (law enforcement) services, with the commitment that we must provide quality service and professionalism,” said police sergeant Edgar Ramos, a union representative.

But within hours any such agreement appeared to be falling apart.

“We reject the deal and we are carrying on with the mutiny,” a unidentified officer told a public meeting of police in La Paz, before a march by some 300 police past the gates of the heavily-guarded presidential palace. It was not clear if Morales was in the palace at the time.

“Police mutiny! Police mutiny!” they chanted. Officials and employees found in police stations across the capital were being turfed out by strike supporters, accused of not joining the movement.

Police in other major cities like Potosi, Cochabamba and Beni had also rejected the deal, which would have seen pay packages boosted by 220 bolivianos (US$$32) a month, Catholic radio Fides reported. Only in Santa Cruz to the east had police decided to suspend their protest, according to the broadcaster.

Refusing to budge from their demand for a minimum pay hike to 2,000 bolivianos (US$287), from the current average of US$195 a month, police in the capital denounced union leaders for caving in to the government.

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Bolivian policemen on strike march in La Paz on Sunday, June 24. Police in Bolivia rejected Sunday a pay deal between the government and the unions and recommitted to a mutiny that ...

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