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Bolivia announces deal with striking police

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Bolivia's government has signed a deal on new salary terms with striking police, according to Carlos Romero, the interior minister.

The officers had agreed to end their mutiny in important cities, Romero announced on Sunday.

"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," he said.

Police Sergeant Edgar Ramos, a union representative, said: "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."

The deal responded to strikers' demand for a raise by offering a bonus of roughly $32. They had asked that the base pay level for police be raised to 2,000 bolivianos ($287) from a current average of $195 a month.

The agreement also calls for the creation of a police ombudsman's office as well as committees to study both a revision of a law that bans police from publicly expressing their opinions, and better retirement conditions.

The deal came after Bolivia's military ordered troops into the streets of several major cities on Saturday in response to the police mutiny, which Amanda Davila, communications minister, said resembled a "coup scenario."

"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," Davila said in an interview with the private Erbol radio.

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

But police sergeant Javier Quispe, a spokesman for the strikers, had quickly denied any plans for a coup, calling it a "total lie."

"We want to tell the public it's not like that. This is a just demand for a fair salary," he said.

The mutiny began on Thursday when protesters took over the headquarters of Bolivia's riot police and eight other police stations. It then spread to more than two dozen police stations and command centre across the country.

A crowd of about 300 striking police, dressed in civilian clothes and covering their faces, attacked the National Intelligence Directorate on Friday, smashing windows and pulling out furniture, documents and computers, and even setting flags ablaze.

Roughly 300 protesters later hurled rocks and smashed windows at national police headquarters. Police on duty outside the building offered no resistance.


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