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    Bolivian Coup Attempt Thwarted as Military Retreats, General Arrested

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    Bolivian Coup Attempt Thwarted as Military Retreats, General Arrested
    • June 27, 2024 • 27 days ago
    in summary
    Bolivia's armed forces retreated from the presidential palace in La Paz, leading to the arrest of General Juan Jose Zuniga after President Luis Arce denounced an attempted coup. President Arce emphasized the threat to democracy and called for international support. Soldiers and tanks had initially gathered in Plaza Murillo but later withdrew, allowing police to secure the area. Jose Wilson Sanchez was sworn in as the new military commander. The attempted coup prompted global condemnation and calls for the defense of democracy from various international leaders and organizations.

    Bolivia recently witnessed a dramatic series of events as an attempted coup against the government of President Luis Arce unfolded. The situation came to a head when the Bolivian armed forces, led by General Juan Jose Zuniga, positioned soldiers and tanks in Plaza Murillo, the historic square that houses both the presidential palace and Congress.

    The incident began when General Zuniga, who had recently been stripped of his command, rallied military units in the central square. The presence of armed forces and tanks alarmed many, raising fears of a military takeover. President Arce swiftly denounced the actions, labeling them as a coup attempt aimed at undermining Bolivian democracy. He urged the Bolivian people to organize and mobilize in defense of their democratic institutions, a call that resonated deeply within the country and garnered significant international attention.

    In this handout picture released by Bolivian Presidency, Bolivian President Luis Arce (2nd R) attends a military event next to Gen. Juan Jose Zuniga (R) in La Paz on April 18, 2024.  AFP
    In this handout picture released by Bolivian Presidency, Bolivian President Luis Arce (2nd R) attends a military event next to Gen. Juan Jose Zuniga (R) in La Paz 

    As tensions escalated, President Arce addressed the nation from the presidential palace, flanked by his ministers. He condemned the attempted coup and vowed to protect Bolivia's democracy. His impassioned plea for international support did not go unheard, as leaders from across Latin America and beyond expressed their solidarity with Arce's government. Condemnations poured in from Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil, among others, all emphasizing the importance of upholding democratic principles in Bolivia.

    In a dramatic turn of events, General Zuniga was arrested later that evening as he addressed reporters outside a military barracks. Footage broadcast on state television showed Deputy Interior Minister Jhonny Aguilera informing Zuniga that he was under arrest. This arrest marked a significant victory for the Arce administration, which had been facing increasing challenges from both within and outside the government.

    The backdrop to these events is Bolivia's deeply polarized political landscape. The ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party is divided, with tensions between supporters of President Arce and those loyal to former President Evo Morales. Morales, Bolivia's first Indigenous president, remains a contentious figure. His attempt to bypass the constitution and seek a fourth term in 2019 led to widespread protests and allegations of election fraud, ultimately forcing him to resign and flee the country. He returned after Arce's victory in 2020, but the power struggle between the two leaders has only intensified since then.

    General Zuniga's arrest was not just about the immediate threat posed by the tanks and soldiers in Plaza Murillo. It also highlighted the broader issues of internal conflict and political instability that have plagued Bolivia for years. Zuniga's remarks, suggesting that the military intended to "restructure democracy," and his subsequent claim that President Arce had orchestrated the uprising to boost his own popularity, added further complexity to the situation. Zuniga alleged that Arce had instructed him to stage the coup, an accusation that Arce vehemently denied.

    Military troops are deployed at the Plaza de Armas in La Paz
    Military troops are deployed at the Plaza de Armas in La Paz 

    The international community, including the United States, closely monitored the situation. The Organisation of American States (OAS) issued a strong statement, asserting that any breach of the constitutional order in Bolivia would not be tolerated. This widespread international support for Arce's government was crucial in stabilizing the situation and ensuring that the attempted coup did not succeed.

    A supporter of Bolivian President Luis Arce fires a bengal outside Quemado Palace at Plaza Murillo in La Paz
    A supporter of Bolivian President Luis Arce fires a bengal outside Quemado Palace at Plaza Murillo in La Paz 

    In the aftermath, President Arce appointed Jose Wilson Sanchez as the new military commander, signaling a reorganization within the armed forces. This move aimed to reinforce loyalty to the government and prevent any future attempts at insurrection. The swift resolution of the crisis demonstrated the resilience of Bolivia's democratic institutions, even in the face of significant challenges.

    While the immediate threat has been neutralized, Bolivia's political future remains uncertain. The deep divisions within the MAS party and the ongoing power struggle between Arce and Morales continue to pose risks. However, the firm response to the attempted coup has shown that Bolivians, supported by the international community, are committed to defending their democracy.

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