Bolivia: police mutiny, mineral company protests nationalization

A mutiny by rank-and-file National Police demanding higher wages spread across Bolivia on June 22, with an estimated 4,000 officers occupying barracks. The mutiny began the previous night, when some 30 officers and their wives seized control of the barracks of the elite anti-riot force (UTOP), just a block from the presidential palace in La Paz. Striking officers also sacked and set fire to furniture and documents at a police office in downtown La Paz that processes disciplinary complaints. Officers quickly joined the protest in major cities including Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Oruro, demanding direct talks with President Evo Morales. The president returned early from the UN climate summit in Brazil to deal with the crisis, and is currently in the palace, protected by rifle-weilding military police.

Former police captian David Vargas—who led two past mutinies, against the government of Hugo Banzer in April 1999 and that of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada in February 2003—said that Morales “maltreats and discriminates” against the Bolivian police, favoring the military, which he “has in his pocket.” He said the military is favored with wage and benefit hikes at the expense of the National Police. (AP, ANF, ABI, June 22)

As the mutiny swept the country, mineral giant Glencore International protested Bolivia’s decision to nationalize the Colquiri zinc and tin mine (La Paz department)—the second such action against the Swiss company’s assets by the current government. The government said it will compensate the company for machinery and equipment, but Glencore said the move raises doubts about the country’s policy toward foreign mining investment. (WSJ, June 22)

See our last posts on Bolivia and the mineral cartel.

Please leave a tip or answer the Exit Poll.