Bolivian government decries coup as some police join protests

  Police officers take part in a meeting inside a police station during a protest against Bolivia's President Evo Morales in La Paz, Bolivia. [Reuters]
The government of Bolivian President Evo Morales denounced what it called a coup by violent groups on Saturday, as some police forces carried out acts of “mutiny” in support of opposition protests amid a weeks-long standoff over a disputed election.

Morales, Latin America’s longest-standing leader, won the election on Oct. 20 but the vote count had been inexplicably halted for nearly a day, sparking allegations of fraud and leading to protests, strikes and road blocks.

“Sisters and brothers, our democracy is at risk due to the coup d’etat that violent groups have launched that undermine the constitutional order,” Morales tweeted in the early hours of Saturday. “We denounce this attempt against the rule of law before the international community.”

The foreign ministry also said in a statement on Saturday that a coup was “in process” by radical civic groups, adding some police officers had “abandoned their constitutional role of ensuring the security of society and state institutions”.

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Luis Fernando Camacho, a civic leader from the eastern city of Santa Cruz who has become a symbol of the opposition, replied to Morales’ tweet, saying “We have not come to overthrow a president, we have come to free Bolivia from its dictatorship”.

Camacho plans to lead a march to the government palace on Monday with a symbolic pre-written resignation letter for Morales to sign.

Bolivians marched again in several cities on Friday night and there were scattered cases of police joining the protests, adding to the pressure on Morales.

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In the city of Cochabamba, the scene of recent violent clashes, Reuters witnesses saw police officers protesting on the roof of their headquarters in an apparent act of disobedience against the government.

Adriana Salvatierra, the head of the Senate and a member of the ruling party, called for calm on Saturday and told reporters that the government was establishing dialogue with the police to find a peaceful resolution to the issue.

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