Bolivia's police strikes have become so violent, apparently, that the military has ordered troops onto the streets of major cities to prevent what could be a coup attempt.
"Press reports and intelligence reports are now saying that a coup scenario is taking shape," Communications Minister Amanda Davila said in an interview. "What gets our attention is that the police are putting weapons in police units where there were none before, they are pressuring other units to turn over their weapons."
Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra, however, maintains the military are there to protect private property and ensure public order.
But what has really been sweeping the news is the "crazy" videos of countless police officers "trashing everything," in the words of Business Insider.
They certainly seem to be acting more like anti-austerity activists or Black-bloc enthusiasts than police officers.
The first video from Spanish EFE News shows countless officers brawling at around 16 seconds (made all the scarier by a woman in pink who appears to be caught in the middle of it), then at around 35 seconds the mob starts bashing a car with wooden poles, before seemingly robbing it and setting more fires:
Another video, this time from Russia Today, shows the ransacking of what is reportedly the police intelligence headquarters:
According to the Associated Press, close to 4,000 rank-and-file Bolivian police officers are involved in the mutiny, which began on Thursday when 30 officers and their wives seized control of an elite unit’s barracks just 100 meters from the presidential palace, and ejected its commanders.
Violence clearly escalated in the following days, and some are saying the situation is beginning to parallel a similar mutiny in 2003, when police engaged the presidential guard in a firefight, and 19 people were killed.
The current president is Bolivia’s first indigenous leader and won re-election by a wide margin in 2010, but his approval rating has dropped to about 43 percent amid a series of protests over wage demands, rising prices and objections to his support for a jungle highway that would splice a nature preserve, according to the Associated Press.
(H/T: Business Insider)