Bolivia Coup Attempt: General imprisoned, army flees palace

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Armored vehicles crashed through the doors of Bolivia’s government palace Wednesday. An apparent conspiracy attempt, But President Luis Arce vowed to stand firm and appointed a new military commander who ordered the troops to stand down.

Soon the soldiers retreated with a line of hundreds of military vehicles Supporters of Ars Waving Bolivian flags, singing the national anthem and cheering, they rushed the square outside the palace.

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

Hours later, after the Attorney General opened an investigation, the Bolivian general behind the rebellion, Juan José Zunica, was arrested. It was not immediately clear what the charges against him were.

Armored vehicles crashed through the doors of Bolivia’s government palace on Wednesday as President Luis Arce said the country was facing an attempted coup, standing firm and urging people to mobilize.

In a twist, however, in remarks to reporters before Zuniga’s arrest, Arce said he had told the general to attack the palace in a political move. “The president told me: ‘The situation is very bad, very complicated. It is necessary to prepare something to boost my popularity,'” Zuniga said.

Zúñiga sajd he asked Ars “to take out the armored vehicles?” he asked. Ars replied, “Take them out.”

Justice Minister Ivan Lima denied Zuniga’s claims, saying the general was lying and trying to justify his own actions in the face of justice.

Prosecutors will seek a maximum sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison for Zuniga, Lima said via social media site X, for “attacking democracy and the constitution.”

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

Rebellion on Wednesday Tensions persisted for monthsEconomic crises and protests have left two political titans — Arce and his one-time ally, leftist former president Evo Morales — fighting for control of the ruling party.

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Yet the apparent attempt to oust the incumbent president seemed to lack meaningful support, and even Ars’ rivals closed ranks to defend democracy and reject the uprising.

The scene shocked Bolivians, no strangers to political unrest; Morales was ousted from the presidency in 2019 following an earlier political crisis.

As the crisis unfolded on Wednesday, military vehicles flooded the plaza. Before entering the government palace, Zúñiga told journalists: “Of course there will be a new cabinet soon; our country, our state cannot go on like this. Zúñiga said “for now”, however, he recognized Arce as commander-in-chief.

Zúñiga did not openly say he was leading a coup, but said the military was trying to “restore democracy and free our political prisoners.”

Moments later, Arce confronted Zuniga in a palace hallway, as shown on video on Bolivian television. “I am your captain and I order you to withdraw your soldiers, I will not allow this disobedience,” said Arce.

Flanked by ministers, he added: “Here we are in Casa Grande, determined to face any coup attempt. The Bolivian people must organize.

Less than an hour later, Ars announced the new heads of the army, navy and air force amid roars of supporters and thanked the country’s police and regional allies for standing by him. Ars said the troops who rose up against him were “staining the uniform” of the army.

“I am ordering all those mobilized to return to their units,” said newly named army chief Jose Wilson Sanchez. “No one wants the images we see in the streets.”

A short time later, armored vehicles pulled out of the plaza, tailed by hundreds of military fighters, and police in riot gear set up barricades outside the government palace.

The incident drew outrage from other regional leaders, including the Organization of American States, Chilean President Gabriel Boric, the Honduran president and former Bolivian leaders.

Bolivia, home to 12 million people, has seen intense protests in recent months over the rapid decline of the continent’s fastest-growing economy two decades ago.

The country has also seen a high-level split in the upper echelons of the ruling party. Arce and his one-time ally Morales are fighting for the future of Bolivia’s fractured movement for socialism ahead of 2025 elections.

Following Wednesday’s chaos, reports in local media showed Bolivians stocking up on food and other essentials in supermarkets, worried about what might come next.

But addressing supporters outside the presidential palace, the country’s vice president, David Chochuanga, vowed that “the Bolivian people will never again allow coup attempts.”


Janetsky reported from Mexico City.


Janetsky reported from Mexico City.

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