Following Protests, Bolivia Deploys 2,300 Soldiers to Patrol Streets

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    Bolivia’s government has deployed 2,300 troops onto the streets of its four largest cities, following protests in El Alto over insecurity connected to the recent murder of two journalists.

    The soldiers began carrying out joint patrols with police in La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz on Friday night, as part of the National Safe City Plan. The deployment will last for three months, before being re-evaluated.

    “The work of the national police force is insufficient to face [crime], and that’s why now we have the participation of the military,” President Evo Morales said.

    As EFE reports, the move comes after protests over the murder of two journalists in El Alto, a city near La Paz. Some residents have demanded that the government reinstate the death penalty, which was abolished in 1993 for all but exceptional cases, and have threatened to lynch two people arrested in connection with the killings.

    InSight Crime Analysis

    While putting the army onto the streets of Bolivia’s cities could cut crime in the short term, it is unlikely to solve the real issues that lie behind the sense of insecurity in the country. As former Government Minister Saul Lara commented to EFE, “structural problems” will remain after the deployment is over, such as unemployment, poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, drug trafficking, and poor education.

    The residents in El Alto are not alone in feeling they cannot trust the police to deal out justice — there have been 150 lynchings or attempted lynchings in Bolivia since 2009, most of them fatal, according to reports. Dealing with this lack of confidence would require profound reform of the police and judiciary, something the security plan does not address.

    Bolivia is one of many countries in the region to use the military in policing roles in recent months, including governments in Ecuador, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. However, as the Andean Information Network points out, such deployments have been taking place reguarly in Bolivia for more than a decade.

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