July 24th, 2024

A coup attempt is feared in Bolivia as troops pour into the streets

By The Associated Press on June 26, 2024.

Soldiers stand guard outside the presidential palace in Plaza Murillo in La Paz, Bolivia, Wednesday, June 26, 2024. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) – Armored vehicles rammed into the doors of Bolivia’s government palace Wednesday as a top government official warned of a coup attempt and President Luis Arce said “irregular” deployment of troops was taking place in the capital.

Video on Bolivian television showed Arce confronting the general commander of the Army, Juan José Zúñiga, in the palace hallway. “I am your captain, and I order you to withdraw your soldiers, and I will not allow this insubordination,” Arce said.

Before entering the government building, Zúñiga told journalists in the plaza: “Surely soon there will be a new Cabinet of ministers; our country, our state cannot go on like this.” Zúñiga said that “for now” he recognizes President Arce as commander in chief.

In a message on his X account, Arce called for “democracy to be respected.” It came as Bolivian television showed two tanks and a number of men in military uniform in front of the government palace.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, also in a message on X, denounced the movement of the military in the Murillo square outside the palace, calling it a coup “in the making.”

The general commander of the Army, Juan José Zúñiga, present in the same square, confirmed the movement of uniformed officers and said: “We are upset by the affront, enough is enough.”

He spoke on television of “attacks on democracy,” without elaborating.

María Nela Prada, minister of the presidency and a top Bolivian official, said military and tanks were taking over the plaza, calling it an “attempted coup d’etat.”

“The people are on alert to defend democracy,” she said to local television station Red Uno.

The incident was met with a wave of outrage by other regional leaders, including the Organization of American States; Gabriel Boric, the president of neighboring Chile; Honduras’s leader, and former Bolivian leaders.

Bolivia, a country of 12 million people, has seen intensifying protests in recent months over the economy’s precipitous decline from one of the continent’s fastest-growing two decades ago to one of its most crisis-stricken.

The country also has seen a high-profile rift at the highest levels of the governing party. Arce and his one-time ally, leftist icon and former President Morales, have been battling for the future of Bolivia’s splintering Movement for Socialism, known by its Spanish acronym MAS, ahead of elections in 2025.

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