Coup attempt in Bolivia: General arrested, army flees palace

LA PAZ, Bolivia – Armored vehicles stormed the doors of Bolivia’s government palace on Wednesday in an attack A clear coup attempt But President Luis Arce vowed to stand firm and appointed a new army commander who ordered the troops to withdraw.

The soldiers quickly withdrew with a line of military vehicles, along with hundreds Ars supporters They rushed to the square outside the palace, waving Bolivian flags, singing the national anthem and chanting.

Ars, surrounded by ministers, waved to the crowd. “Thank you to the Bolivian people,” he said. ” Long live democracy“.

Hours later, the Bolivian general who appeared to be behind the rebellion, Juan Jose Zuniga, was arrested after the public prosecutor opened an investigation. It was not immediately clear what the charges were against him.

Armored vehicles stormed the gates of Bolivia’s government palace on Wednesday as President Luis Arce said the country was facing a coup attempt, insisted he was standing firm and urged people to mobilize.

However, in a twist, Zuniga claimed in statements to reporters before his arrest that Arce himself asked the general to storm the palace in a political move. The president told me: The situation is very complex and very critical. “It is necessary to prepare something to raise my popularity,” Zuniga quoted the Bolivian leader as saying.

Zuniga asked Arce if he should “take out the armored vehicles?” “Take them out,” Ars replied.

Justice Minister Ivan Lima denied Zuniga’s allegations, saying the general is lying and trying to justify his actions for which he will face justice.

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Lima said on the social media platform

Military police gather outside the main entrance as an armored vehicle crashes into the door of the presidential palace in Plaza Murillo in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, June 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Juan Carreta)

Wednesday’s rebellion After months of tensionswith economic hardship and protests increasingly mounting as two political giants – Arce and his former ally leftist ex-president Evo Morales – vie for control of the ruling party.

However, the apparent attempt to unseat the incumbent appears to lack any real support, and even Arce’s rivals have joined forces to defend democracy and disavow the uprising.

The scene shocked Bolivians, who are no strangers to political turmoil; in 2019, Morales was ousted as president following an earlier political crisis.

As the crisis unfolded on Wednesday, military vehicles poured into the square. Before entering the Government Palace, Zuniga told reporters: “It is certain that soon there will be a new cabinet; “Our country and our state cannot continue like this.” Zuniga said that “for the time being” he recognized Arce as commander-in-chief.

Zuniga did not explicitly say he was leading a coup, but said the army was trying to “restore democracy and release our political prisoners.”

Shortly after, Arce confronted Zuniga in the palace hallway, as seen in a video on Bolivian television. “I am your commander, I order you to withdraw your soldiers, and I will not allow this disobedience,” Arce said.

Surrounded by ministers, he added: “Here we are, fixed in Casa Grande, to confront any coup attempt. We need to organize the Bolivian people.”

Less than an hour later, Arce announced new commanders of the army, navy and air force to roars of supporters, thanking the country’s police and regional allies for standing by him. Ars said that the forces that revolted against him were “staining the uniform” of the army.

“I ordered all conscripts to return to their units,” newly appointed army commander Jose Wilson Sanchez said. “No one wants the images we see on the streets.”

Shortly after, armored vehicles exited the square, followed by hundreds of military fighters, while riot police set up barricades outside the government palace.

The incident was met with a wave of anger from other regional leaders, including the Organization of American States, Chilean President Gabriel Buric, the leader of Honduras, and former Bolivian leaders.

Bolivia, a country with a population of 12 million people, has witnessed intense protests in recent months due to the sharp decline of the economy from one of the fastest growing economies on the continent two decades ago to one of the economies most suffering from crises.

The country also witnessed major disagreement at the highest levels of the ruling party. Arce and his former ally Morales are fighting for the future of the dissident Movement for Socialism in Bolivia, known by its Spanish acronym MAS, before elections scheduled for 2025.

In the wake of Wednesday’s chaos, reports in local media showed Bolivians stocking up on food and other necessities in supermarkets, worried about what would happen next.

But the country’s vice president, David Choquehuanca, pledged in his speech to supporters outside the presidential palace: “Never again will the Bolivian people allow coup attempts.”


Janetsky reported from Mexico City.


Janetsky reported from Mexico City.

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