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Failed coup in Bolivia: the president denies any conspiracy

Bolivian President Luis Arce has denied this. Thursday any conspiracy with the ex-chief of the army, arrestedé under the accusation of having attempted to a coup d'état on Wednesday by deploying armored vehicles in front of the presidential palace in New York. La Paz.

Fourteen civilians who opposed the coup, in which elements of the military police took part, were injured by pellet fire, according to the authorities. Some had to be hospitalized and “operated on,” Luis Arce told the press.

General Juan José Zúñiga, arrested the same day after finally withdrawing his troops, claimed to have acted on orders from the president who asked him to “stage something to increase his popularity”, in a context of serious economic crisis.

“How could one order or plan a self-coup d'état ? (…) He acted on his own,” replied Thursday Mr. Arce. “Unfortunately for him, and it showed, I am not a politician who will gain his popularity with the blood of the people.”

As of Wednesday, Luis Arce swore in a new command of the armed forces. In addition to the general and the head of the Navy, Juan Arnez Salvador, 15 people were arrested.

The two men are being prosecuted for “armed uprising and terrorism” and face up to 20 years in prison.

– “Planned since May”

The institutional storm only blew for a few hours, but enough to reveal the country's fragilities as appetites whetted with a view to the 2025 presidential election.

The motivations of the army chief Juan José Zúñiga, who had set up men and armoured vehicles in Murillo Square, opposite the parliament and the presidential palace, remain unclear.

Before his arrest by the police, General Zuniga had said he wanted to “restructure democracy, make it a real democracy (…) Not that of a few, not that of a few masters who have ruled the country for 30 or 40 years”.

The Minister of Government (Interior), Eduardo Del Castillo, castigated “two military coup plotters who wanted to destroy democracy”.

On Thursday, he presented to the media 15 other people arrested, handcuffed, surrounded by police. “This operation had been planned since May,” he said, adding that three other suspects were being sought.

The United Nations called for “an investigation thorough and impartial on the allegations of violence”.

– Lithium and gas –

The presidency broadcast on Wednesday images showing the door to the presidential palace being forced open by an armored vehicle and the general entering the compound, while his men fired tear gas.

They also show the president from the left come to meet the general and admonish him: “I am your captain (…) bring all the military police back to their barracks (…) withdraw all these forces now. This is an order, general” .

Failed coup in Bolivia: the president denies any conspiracy

Former Bolivian army chief General Juan Jose Zuniga (C) is escorted by police officers after his arrest, in La Paz, June 26, 2024 © AFP – Daniel MIRANDA

Condemnations of General Zúñiga's action poured in from all over the world.

Russia, where Mr. Arce met President Vladimir Putin in early June on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg economic forum, expressed its “solidarity with Bolivia, a brother country and a reliable and strategic partner”, and warned against any foreign “interference”.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva affirmed Thursday that he was maintaining a visit planned for July 9 to Bolivia to support his “friend” Luis Arce and “democracy”.

“People must keep in mind that there are interests in carrying out a coup d'état,” he told Itatiaia radio, stressing that the country “is attracting a lot of international interest in its lithium and gas reserves”.

The United States, France, Spain and a large number of South American countries also condemned the coup.

– Political quarrels –

For Gustavo Flores-Macias, from Cornell University in the United States, “the fact that the coup failed does not mean that the situation in Bolivia is resolved, on the contrary: it was a symptom of a very significant discontent that exists in large sectors.”

The country is experiencing strong turbulence due to a fall in its gas production, its main source of foreign currency until 2023, and a surge in prices. The scarcity of dollars has notably provoked the anger of traders and a shortage of fuel.

Failed coup in Bolivia: the president denies any conspiracy

An armoured vehicle of the Bolivian army on Murillo Square in La Paz, June 26, 2024 © AFP – AIZAR RALDES

Also in the background: a conflict between Mr. Arce and his political mentor, former president Evo Morales (2006-2019), both of whom are keen to run on behalf of the ruling party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), in the 2025 presidential election.

General Zúñiga had previously expressed his firm opposition to a possible return to power by Mr. Morales, who enjoys strong support throughout the country but who, according to a decision of the Constitutional Court, cannot run.

All reproduction and representation rights reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116