Bolivia on Sunday deployed its army to take over the duties of the police as police officers strike across the country, sparking fears and rumors of a coup.
Police officers violently seized control Thursday of a barracks in the capital, La Paz. This led Communications Minister Amanda Davila to make remarks that the officers are “setting the scene for a coup,” according to the BBC.
The officers have been stockpiling weapons and ammunition, Davila said.
“Press reports and intelligence reports are now saying that a coup scenario is taking shape,” she said.
Officers, however, have said they are not looking to overthrow the government, but merely want a better pay raise than the 7 percent salary increase offered by left-wing President Evo Morales. Officers make around $117 per month on average and seek a raise to $287, CNN reported. Such a raise would put their salaries on par with soldiers of equal rank.
The government and police are still in talks over wages.
The protesting police are responsible for containing the frequent, large demonstrations that occur in La Paz.Ombudsman Rolando Villena said citizen safety is of concern due to the loss of police on patrol providing security.
“We are concerned about the helplessness in which the population is in,” he said, according to the network. “The absence of protection by the police. We call upon both parties to seek a solution within the framework of dialogue.”
According to the U.S. State Department Bolivia is a medium to high “crime threat country,” with frequent kidnappings. The most recent United Nations data shows that Bolivia has a relatively high homicide rate of 8.9 people killed per 100,000 in a year. In comparison, the U.S. homicide rate is at around 4.8 per 100,000.