La Paz: Bolivia`s military leaders have ordered the dismissal for sedition of 702 low-ranking soldiers who had been protesting for equal treatment in the country`s armed forces.
The army, navy and air force said in a statement yesterday that they have ordered the dismissal of the enlisted men and sergeants because they "committed acts of sedition, rebellion, conducted political actions and attacked the honour of the Armed Forces."
The unprecedented military protest began Tuesday with 500 soldiers, but expanded to about 1,000 yesterday. The low-ranking soldiers marched through the capital of La Paz dressed in camouflage uniforms, together with some of their wives and Aymara indigenous leaders who supported their demands.
Protesters say the military discriminates against indigenous Bolivians, an accusation denied by defence 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.
"It cannot be that they dismiss our brothers for demanding their rights. We will expand the protest if they are not reinstituted," said indigenous leader Samuel Coarite.
On Wednesday, Defence Minister Ruben Saavedra said the situation in Bolivia`s armed forces is changing and that in 2015 enlisted men and sergeants will be able to receive scholarships to study the same as officers.
The protesters have asked to meet with President Evo Morales, but Aymara president has not spoken publicly about the demonstrations.