Police in three Bolivian cities joined anti-government protests Friday, in one case marching with demonstrators in La Paz, in the first sign security forces are withdrawing support from President Evo Morales after a disputed election that has triggered riots.
The defense minister said the government has for now ruled out a military operation against the rebellious police as the political crisis stemming from last month's vote escalated.
Morales took to Twitter to denounce the police rebellion as a coup. "Before the international community, we denounce this attack on the rule of law," Morales wrote. He called on Bolivians to protect their democracy and constitution.
Convoco a nuestro pueblo a cuidar pacíficamente la democracia y la CPE para preservar la paz y la vida como bienes supremos por encima de cualquier interés político. La unidad del pueblo será la garantía para el bienestar de la Patria y la paz social.
— Evo Morales Ayma (@evoespueblo) November 9, 2019
Morales earlier convened an emergency meeting with some of his ministers. The scope of the police rebellion was not immediately clear.
On Friday dozens of police joined demonstrators marching along Prado Avenue in the capital and shouting slogans against Morales, AFP observed.
Bolivian television broadcast footage of police shaking hands with demonstrators in downtown La Paz — a stark contrast to the last three nights, when the two sides clashed.
In some La Paz neighborhoods, police retreated to their barracks rather than take on protesters who shouted: "Police, our friends, the people are with you."
Elsewhere, units in the southeastern city of Sucre and the opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz said they were joining a rebellion launched by police officers in the central city of Cochabamba.
Police in Sucre "are joining in support of the comrades who have mutinied in Cochabamba," a uniformed officer, his face covered, told local TV from the door of a police station.
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