July 18, 2024

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Bolivia coup attempt fails, general arrested

Bolivia coup attempt fails, general arrested

Armored vehicles, led by a top general who vowed to “restore democracy,” stormed the doors of Bolivia’s government palace on Wednesday in what the president called an attempted coup, then quickly retreated — the latest crisis in the South American country facing a political and economic battle. calamity.

Within hours, the country of 12 million people witnessed a fast-moving scenario in which troops appeared to take control of the government of President Luis Arce. He pledged steadfastness and appointed a new army commander, who immediately ordered the troops to withdraw.

The soldiers quickly withdrew along with a line of military vehicles, ending the rebellion after just three hours. Hundreds of Arce supporters then rushed to the square outside the palace, waving Bolivian flags, singing the national anthem and cheering.

The soldiers’ withdrawal was followed by the arrest of Army Commander General Juan Jose Zuniga, after the Public Prosecutor opened an investigation.

A soldier draws attention from reporters leaving Plaza Murillo on Wednesday as soldiers gather outside the presidential palace in La Paz, Bolivia.Juan Carreta/AFP

Government Minister Eduardo del Castillo said that in addition to Zuniga, former naval vice admiral Juan Arnez Salvador was detained.

“What is the goal of this group? The goal was to overthrow the democratically elected authority,” del Castillo told reporters as he announced the arrests.

Late Wednesday, Defense Minister Edmundo Novello said that “everything is now under control.” Surrounded by the new military leaders appointed by Arce, Novello said Bolivia had experienced a “failed coup.”

The apparent coup attempt came at a time when the country faced months of tensions and political battles between Arce and his former ally, former leftist President Evo Morales, over control of the ruling party. It also came amid a severe economic crisis.

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These clashes have paralyzed the government’s efforts to deal with the economic crisis. For example, Morales’ allies in Congress have consistently worked to thwart Arce’s attempts to take on debt to relieve some of the pressure.

Referring to this paralysis that struck the country during the rebellion, Zuniga told reporters that the army was tired of infighting and was seeking to “restore democracy.”

“We are listening to the cry of the people because the elite have controlled the country for many years,” he said, adding that politicians are “destroying the country: look at the situation we are in, what crisis they have left us.” in.”

He said: “The armed forces are determined to restore democracy and make it a true democracy.”

The rapidly unfolding crisis began in the early afternoon when the streets of La Paz began filling with soldiers. Ars tweeted that the troop deployment was irregular and he and other political figures quickly warned of a coup attempt.

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.

In a surprising development, Zuniga claimed in statements he made to reporters before his arrest that Arce himself ordered the general to storm the palace in a political move. “The president told me: ‘The situation is very deteriorating and very critical,’” Zuniga quoted the Bolivian leader as saying. “It is necessary for me to prepare to raise my popularity.”

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

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Justice Minister Ivan Lima denied Zuniga’s claims, saying the general was lying and trying to justify his actions for which he said he would face justice.

Lima said on the social media platform

The scene shocked Bolivians, who are no stranger to political turmoil; In 2019, Morales was ousted from his position as president after an earlier political crisis.

As the crisis unfolded on Wednesday, Arce confronted Zuniga in the palace hallway, as seen in a video broadcast 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 the ministers, he added: “Here we are, resolute in Casablanca, in the face of any coup attempt.” We need the Bolivian people to organize.

Supporters of President Luis Arce chase soldiers as they flee Plaza Murillo, after a failed coup attempt in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, June 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

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.

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Gustavo Flores Macias, a professor of government and public policy who focuses on Latin America at Cornell University, said it was important for world leaders and organizations to continue their condemnation of the attempted coup as developments unfold.

“If we allow the disruption of the constitutional order in Bolivia, it could have the effect of a demonstration,” Flores Macias of New York said in an interview with The Associated Press. “That might send a signal that if it’s okay for this to happen in Bolivia, it might happen somewhere else.”

Bolivia 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.

Arce and 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.”