Bolivian President Morales refuses to step down amid protests

A demonstrator kicks a tear gas canister thrown by the police during a protest against President Evo Morales' reelection in La Paz Bolivia Thursday

Bolivia opposition leader blocked from reaching capital

In the city of Cochabamba, the scene of recent violent clashes, Reuters witnesses saw police officers protesting on the roof of their headquarters carrying Bolivian flags in an apparent act of disobedience against the government.

Bolivian President Evo Morales denounced what he called a coup d'etat by violent groups on Saturday, when police officers joined opposition protests amid a week-long confrontation over a disputed election.

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

At least three people have died, the latest a 20-year-old student on Wednesday, and more than 300 people have been injured in clashes between anti-government protesters and Morales' supporters since the disputed election on 20 October. The leader of the Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee has vowed not to leave La Paz until he delivers a pre-written resignation letter and a Bible to Morales.

On Friday night crowds cheered dozens of police officers who marched down a main avenue and garrisoned themselves in the city's central police station. Police in Santa Cruz, an opposition stronghold, affixed a sign on their station saying they were in revolt.

Morales earlier convened an emergency meeting with some of his ministers. There will be no military operation at this time.

Gen. Yuri Calderón, head of the national police, had previously denied that a police rebellion was under way and called the Cochabamba incident isolated.

"There is normalcy in the rest of the country and we hope that services will resume", he said. Morales warned that Bolivia's democracy is at risk because of the coup d'etat attempt launched by violent groups that threaten the constitutional order, and denounced to the global community 'this attack on the rule of law'.

There was no immediate comment from either Camacho or Mesa.

After the October 20 vote, the country's first indigenous president declared himself the outright victor even before official results indicated he obtained just enough support to avoid a runoff with Mesa.

Carlos Mesa, who lost to Morales in the election, has denounced the vote as fraudulent, insisting the results had been manipulated during a 24-hour period when the electoral count was suspended.

Morales said he would also invite worldwide organizations including the Vatican, the United Nations and the Organization of American States (OAS), which is conducting an audit of the October vote. The opposition, which has alleged vote-rigging, says it will not accept the results because it was not consulted about the audit plan.

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