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Striking police turn back pro-Morales marchers

ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION STORY: Striking Bolivian police used tear gas on Monday (June 25) to expel from a La Paz square demonstrating supporters of President Evo Morales. The police are on the fourth day of an aggressive strike to demand high salaries. Heavily armed striking officers guarded Plaza Murillo, the square adjacent to the government palace and legislative headquarters. Dozens of officers have been hurt and several police stations destroyed during the protests in a fresh challenge to Morales, who has faced an upswing in social conflicts in the past year. Morales said Sunday he would not deploy troops to restore order, despite concerns streets will be unsafe with the lower police presence. On Monday, Morales supporters planned to hold vigil in front of the government house in support of the president. They were greeted in Plaza Murillo by policeman dressed as civilians, armed and carrying tear gas. The marchers called the police "brutal" and complained their peaceful march did not warrant the use of tear gas. Morales often blames social protests on political rivals bent on destabilizing the natural gas-exporting South American country, which has a history of coups and violent social conflicts. No serious criminal incidents were reported despite the absence of police patrols.

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