Police against the reelection of President Evo Morales stand on the rooftop of a police station waving national flags just meters away from the presidential palace, in La Paz, Bolivia, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. Policemen guarding the exteriors of the presidential palace in La Paz retreated to their barracks on Saturday, while officers in other Bolivian cities have declared mutinies and joined protests against President Evo Morales, who has faced two weeks of unrest over disputed election results. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

Police outside Bolivia's presidential palace abandon posts

November 09, 2019 - 12:41 pm

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Police guards outside the presidential palace in Bolivia left their posts on Saturday, allowing anti-government protesters to walk up to the doors of the building.

President Evo Morales was not in the compound when police retreated to their barracks, in a sign of growing discontent among security forces after a disputed election.

Officials in the palace in La Paz were evacuated, leaving only a military presidential guard. Protesters moved peacefully to the doors of the compound, and later left the area.

Some police units in Bolivia became openly defiant toward the government on Friday, an ominous development for Morales as he seeks to stabilize the divided country after claiming victory in the Oct. 20 vote.

Defense Minister Javier Zabaleta has downplayed the police protests, saying a "police mutiny occurred in a few regions."

However, dissent within police ranks appeared to be spreading on Saturday. Their listed demands include better working conditions, the resignation of their commander and guarantees that they won't be used as a political "instrument of any government."

The dispute over the presidential election has triggered nationwide protests, resulting in three deaths and more than 300 injuries.

The political opposition says there was fraud in the election, an allegation that Morales says amounts to an attempt to overthrow Bolivia's rightful government.

Morales declared himself the outright winner even before official results indicated he obtained just enough support to avoid a runoff with former President Carlos Mesa. But a 24-hour lapse in releasing vote results raised suspicions among opposition supporters.

The Organization of American States is conducting an audit of the election count and their findings are expected Monday or Tuesday. The opposition says it will not accept the results because they were not consulted on how the process would unfold.

Morales, who took office in 2006, had previously refused to accept the results of a referendum upholding term limits for the president.

The country's constitutional court later ruled that term limits violated his human right to run for office, and the electoral court accepted his candidacy for a fourth term.

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