Bolivian army accused of ‘plotting a coup’

Members of the Bolivian army tried to storm the presidential palace in the capital La Paz on Wednesday afternoon, in an apparent coup attempt led by a top general who claimed he was leading an attempt to “re-establish democracy”.

The country’s democratically elected president, Luis Arce, appeared on television shortly afterward, calling on Bolivians to “organize and mobilize against this coup and in support of democracy.”

“Long live the people of Bolivia!” he shouted. “Long live democracy!”

Video on Bolivian television showed security forces in riot gear occupying the country’s main political square, Plaza Murillo, a camouflaged tank ramming into the palace doors and soldiers trying to advance. into the palace.

According to local reporters, general Juan José Zúñiga entered the building briefly before exiting and speaking in the presence of masked security force members. He criticized the government of Mr Arce, a leftist, and said the army was trying to establish “a real democracy, not the democracy of a few”.

He also called for the release of several imprisoned politicians and military members, including two of Mr. Arce’s political opponents – former President Jeanine Áñez and former Governor Luis Fernando Camacho.

“A few rulers are enough,” the general said. “Look where that got us! Our children and grandchildren have no future, our people have no future, and the army does not lack the strength to fight for our children’s tomorrow.”

Shortly afterwards, Mr. Arce said he would replace General Zuñiga, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, who is also head of the air force and navy.

Local media reported that General Zuñiga was dismissed this week, which some in the country said was related to his comments about former President Evo Morales, his mentor. Mr. Arce.

In a televised statement, the new commanding general appointed by Mr. Arce, José Wilson Sánchez Velásquez, called on Mr. Zuñiga “not to shed the blood of our soldiers.”

The move was immediately criticized by some regional leaders, including President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil. “Coups have never worked,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

In 2019, Mr. Morales and other leaders, facing violent protests and under pressure from the military, resigned and fled the country, and Ms. Áñez, a senator from a right-wing, became president. But at the next election, a year later, voters overwhelmingly voted for Mr. Arce, Mr. Morales’ handpicked successor.


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