Bolivian soldiers vow to keep protesting
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — A group of Bolivian soldiers protested again on Friday to demand the option of rising to the rank of officer despite the dismissal of 702 enlisted men for sedition.
About 500 soldiers in camouflage uniform gathered in front of the Ministry of Defense in the capital of La Paz, and then marched to the Air Force command building.
Protest leader Freddy Sujocayo said the dismissals “will worsen the situation but we will keep pushing forward.”
Bolivia’s army, navy and air force announced the expulsion Thursday of the 702 enlisted men for sedition, rebellion and attacking the “honor of the Armed Forces.”
The unprecedented military protest began Monday with 500 soldiers but expanded to about 1,000 on Thursday. Non-commissioned officers and sergeants marched in La Paz, together with some of their wives and Aymara indigenous leaders.
Protesters say the military discriminates against indigenous Bolivians, an accusation denied by defense officials.
The protesters are demanding changes so that non-commissioned officers in Bolivia’s military may study to become career officers. They are also demanding the release of four protest leaders fired Monday and say they want more medical benefits on a par with officers.
“Discrimination is no excuse for sedition or promoting a coup d’etat,” said Adm. Victor Baldivieso.