Bolivian army Chief arrested following attempted coup

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Bolivian army Chief arrested following attempted coup

Tanks and troops rolled into Plaza Murillo, the historic plaza housing the Congress and the presidency.

Following what President Luis Arce described as an attempted coup, Bolivia’s army chief sent soldiers and tanks to establish themselves in front of government facilities. The general was taken into custody on Wednesday.

Bolivian army Chief arrested following attempted coup
The afternoon’s incursion of the military and tanks into Plaza Murillo, the historic area housing the Congress and the presidency, sparked international condemnation of an assault on democracy.

A tank attempted to smash through a presidential palace metal door.

With eight tanks and soldiers encircling him, ex-chief of staff of the army Juan Jose Zuniga declared that the “armed forces intend to restructure democracy, to make it a true democracy and not one run by the same few people for 30, 40 years.”

Reporters from AFP saw tanks and soldiers retreating from the square shortly after that. The five hours or so that the rebellion lasted.

Later on Wednesday, according to footage on state television, Zuniga was apprehended and thrown into a police car while speaking to reporters outside a military barracks.

“General, you are being placed under arrest,” Zuniga was informed by Deputy Interior Minister Jhonny Aguilera.

In front of hundreds of supporters, Arce declared, “No one can take away the democracy we have won,” from a balcony of the government palace.

Before, while in the presidential palace with his ministers, he had called on “the Bolivian people to organize and mobilize against the coup d’etat in favor of democracy” in a televised address to the nation.

In addition, he fired Zuniga and swore in new military commanders.

Zuniga told reporters just before he was arrested that the president had actually instructed him to organize an uprising in order to start a crackdown that would raise his declining approval rating and make him appear tough.

“So we bring out armored vehicles?” Zuniga asked Arce during a meeting on Sunday, according to the general. He remarked

To “stage something to raise his popularity,” the general told Arce what to do.

In an essay published on X, former president Evo Morales warned that “a coup d’etat is brewing” and called for a “national mobilization to defend democracy.”n

Zuniga’s statements against democracy
After years of political unrest, Bolivia is extremely divided, and the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), which is currently in power, is torn apart by rivalry between Arce’s followers and those of Morales, who served as his mentor.

As Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, Morales enjoyed great popularity up until 2019, when he attempted to run for a fourth term in office against the will of the people.

That referendum was won by the leftist and former head of the Coca-Cola Union, but she was forced to step down amid violent protests over accusations of election fraud and departed the nation.

After Arce was elected president in October 2020, he came back.

Since then, the two men have been embroiled in a power struggle, and Morales has become more vocal in his criticism of the administration, accusing it of being corrupt, supporting drug trafficking, and ignoring him politically.

Morales is still running for the MAS candidacy despite the Constitutional Court disqualifying him from the 2025 elections six months ago.

Arce has not said if he will run for office again.

On Monday, Zuniga made an appearance on television and threatened to arrest Morales should he insist on standing for election in 2025.

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