Coup attempt in Bolivia: A general is arrested, and the army flees the palace

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

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 with a line of military vehicles, ending the mutiny after only three hours. Hundreds of Ars supporters They then rushed to the square outside the palace, waving Bolivian flags, singing the national anthem and chanting.

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

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

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.

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 remove the current president appears to lack any real support, and even Arce’s rivals have joined forces to defend democracy and disavow the uprising.

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

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 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 at the entrance to the palace, 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.

“Here we are, resolute in Casablanca, facing any coup attempt. We need the Bolivian people to organize,” he added, surrounded by ministers.

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 sparked a wave of anger among other regional leaders, including the Organization of American States, Chilean President Gabriel Porrique, the leader of Honduras, and former Bolivia leaders.

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.”

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Janetsky reported from Mexico City.

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