Home Explainer Bolivia Coup Attempt Fails; Army General Arrested

Bolivia Coup Attempt Fails; Army General Arrested

An armoured vehicle rammed into one of the gates of the Presidential Palace in Bolivia on Wednesday afternoon. Bolivia‘s President Luis Arce described it as a coup against his government.

“Today the country is facing an attempted coup d’état. Today the country faces once again interests so that democracy in Bolivia is cut short,” Arce said in comments from the presidential palace, with armed soldiers outside. “The Bolivian people are summoned today. We need the Bolivian people to organize and mobilize against the coup d’état in favour of democracy.”

Hours later, Bolivian armed forces pulled back from the presidential palace in La Paz and General Juan Jose Zuniga was arrested.

As soon as news spread, citizens gathered in the streets. Amid slogans of “Lucho (Luis Arce, Bolivia’s President), my friend, the people stand by you,” people gathered in the streets.

Tensions started building up earlier in the day after military units led by General Zuniga, recently stripped of his military command, gathered in the central Plaza Murillo square, home to the presidential palace and Congress. He said he wanted to ‘restore democracy’.

Once police had taken back control of the Plaza, and the soldiers withdrew from the square, General Zuniga was arrested and paraded before the media.

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Three other military officers are also under arrest. President Luis Arce thanked the people of Bolivia for taking to the streets to reject the coup attempt.

Across party lines, politicians in Bolivia have condemned the military action.

In a twist in the tale, before his arrest, Zuniga told the press he had met up with the President who asked him to ‘raise something up’ to boost his popularity.

“On Sunday, in La Salle College, I met with the president. And the president told me the situation was bad and this week would be critical. Then it was needed to prepare something to push up his popularity. And I asked him: shall we take the armoured vehicles out? And he said: take them out. Then on Sunday night the armoured vehicles started to go,” General Zuniga said before he was arrested.

Bolivia will go to the polls next year. But tensions have been building up as leftist ex-President Evo Morales is locked in battle with his former ally and current President Luis Arce for control of the party.

This political fight is taking place even as the nation faces a big economic crisis.