Bolivian police arrest leader of coup attempt

Bolivian police arrested the leader of an attempted coup, hours after soldiers stormed the presidential palace in the capital, La Paz.

Armored vehicles and troops had taken up positions in Plaza Murillo, where important government buildings are located. They all left afterwards.

The rebel military leader in charge, General Juan José Zúñiga, had said he wanted to “restructure democracy” and that while he respected President Luis Arce for now, there would be a change of government. He is now under arrest.

President Arce condemned the coup attempt and asked citizens to “organize and mobilize… in favor of democracy.”

“We cannot allow once again coup attempts that end Bolivian lives,” he said in a televised message to the country from inside the presidential palace.

His words resonated clearly and pro-democracy protesters took to the streets in support of the government.

Arce also announced that he was appointing new military commanders, confirming reports that General Zúñiga had been dismissed after openly criticizing Bolivia’s former leader, Evo Morales.

Morales also condemned the coup attempt and called for criminal charges to be brought against General Zúñiga and his “accomplices.”

The prosecutor’s office has opened a criminal investigation.

It is increasingly clear that this was a short-lived and poorly judged military uprising rather than a broader collapse of power.

However, the coming weeks will be key to establishing whether General Zúñiga’s military insurrection was just an isolated incident.

Certainly, the government now appears more vulnerable, and others may attempt to dislodge the Arce administration, even if through politics rather than the military.

Furthermore, he could count on the support of Evo Morales, the influential former president and elder statesman of Bolivia’s left.

Mr. Morales called on his supporters, particularly the country’s indigenous coca-growing movement, to take to the streets to demand an end to the coup attempt.

That demonstration of popular power may well have helped strengthen resolve against General Zúñiga’s plans, which also included the release of “political prisoners,” including former leader Jeanine Áñez.

Speaking from Plaza Murillo after its capture by troops, General Zúñiga had said: “We are going to recover this homeland.

“An elite has taken over the country, vandals who have destroyed it.”

He was fired after appearing on television on Monday, saying he would arrest Morales if he ran for office again next year, even though the former president was banned from doing so.

Arce and Morales, former allies, have not seen eye to eye recently, but were united in their condemnation of the use of troops to force political change in Bolivia.

Indeed, in 2019, President Morales himself was ousted by military chiefs who said he was trying to manipulate the outcome of a presidential election, sending him into exile in Mexico.

Before Evo Morales took power in 2005, Bolivia was one of the most politically volatile nations in the Americas. His time in power brought much-needed stability to the Andean nation, at least until its ignominious end.

For his part, Arce, who was elected after a period of instability following the 2019 elections, will have been encouraged by the speed of the regional response.

Close allies such as the leftist governments of Venezuela and Colombia were quick to condemn what was happening and called for democracy to prevail. Washington also called for calm.

Even those Bolivians who opposed his socialist government will not want to see a return to a dark age in South America, when military officers with appalling human rights records often drove the country’s democratically elected leaders out at gunpoint.

Leave a Comment