Attempted Coup Fails in Bolivia, Leader Captured

Military personnel leave the Bolivian Government headquarters on June 26, 2024, in La Paz (Bolivia). // Photo: EFE/ Luis Gandarillas

By EFE (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – Juan Jose Zuñiga, ousted as the general commander of the Bolivian Army after leading an “attempted coup” against the government of Luis Arce, was arrested hours after the crisis erupted. Previously, Arce had appointed new commanders of the Bolivian Army at the headquarters of the Executive, in the midst of a military movement that he described as a “coup d’état” by Zuñiga.

The now ex-military chief was captured as he left the headquarters of the Bolivian General Staff at 7:00 p.m. (La Paz time), after leading a group of soldiers who stormed the Executive headquarters in the Bolivian capital with tanks. After his capture, Zuñiga accused President Arce of ordering the military operation to “boost his popularity.”

Zuñiga, along with a group of armed soldiers, took over Murillo Square with tanks and knocked down the door of the Casa Grande del Pueblo, the seat of the Bolivian Executive.

“I will speak in detail. On [last] Sunday, I met with the president (Luis Arce) at La Salle School, and the president told me that the situation was very bad, that this week would be critical, and that something was needed to boost his popularity,” Zuñiga said at the time of his capture.

Bolivian Prosecutor’s Office Announces Criminal Investigation

The Bolivian Prosecutor’s Office announced that a criminal investigation has been launched against Zuñiga and “all other participants” in the events that took place in Murillo Square in front of the Executive headquarters.

It also stated that it would seek the “imposition of the maximum penalty on those responsible” to defend the “legality and general interests of society and the preservation of democracy.”

President Arce and former President Evo Morales separately called on their supporters and citizens to “mobilize” to defend democracy from what both considered a “military coup” by the Bolivian Army’s general commander.

At 3:51 p.m. (La Paz time), a tank commanded by Zuñiga broke down the door of the Executive headquarters, saying he would change the “government cabinet” and release “political prisoners” like interim former President Jeanine Añez.

Military personnel attempt to enter the headquarters of the Government of Bolivia, on June 26, 2024, in La Paz, Bolivia. // Photo: EFE/ Luis Gandarillas

Añez Condemns Military Mobilization

However, former interim President of Bolivia Jeanine Añez condemned the irregular mobilization of soldiers seeking to “destroy the constitutional order” and called on Bolivian President Luis Arce and former President Evo Morales to leave through the vote in the 2025 elections.

“I totally repudiate the military mobilization in Murillo Square, attempting to destroy the constitutional order. MAS with Arce and Evo must go through the vote in 2025. Bolivians will defend democracy,” she wrote on her social media.

Juan Carlos Huarachi, leader of the Bolivian Workers’ Central, spoke at a press conference and invited all sectors to a general strike in the face of a possible coup.

Markets, ATMs, Pharmacies, and Fuel Stations Collapse

Minutes after heavily armed soldiers entered the Bolivian government headquarters in the city of La Paz, markets, gas stations, pharmacies, and ATMs collapsed amid an uncertain outlook, reminiscent of the moments experienced during the 2019 crisis.

On one of the main avenues in the city center, El Prado, citizens left their offices and crowded ATMs to withdraw money, fearing the situation would worsen, according to EFE.

Public transportation also collapsed. In the eastern and western hillside neighborhoods and other southern parts of the city, hundreds of people rushed to markets, stores, and pharmacies to stock up on food and other essential items.

Similarly, within minutes, long lines of vehicles, both private and public transportation, formed at fuel stations. Citizens expressed their fear of running out of gasoline or diesel.

Fear gripped the population after tanks and heavily armed soldiers stormed the Bolivian government headquarters under the command of the now ousted military chief Juan Jose Zuñiga.

Andean Community Speaks Out on Bolivia

The General Secretariat of the Andean Community “strongly” rejected any act that “threatens democracy” in Bolivia, a member of this organization, in a message shared following the attempted coup in that South American nation.

The Andean bloc called for strict adherence to the Additional Protocol to the Cartagena Agreement, the “Andean Community’s Commitment to Democracy,” ensuring democratic institutions and the rule of law in that country.

Earlier, the president of Bolivia had stated that his country “is going through an attempted coup,” amid a military movement led by the general commander of the Army.

United States Urges “Calm and Restraint”

The United States is “closely monitoring” the situation in Bolivia and urges “calm and restraint,” a White House spokesperson told EFE in a brief written statement on Wednesday.

The spokesperson referred to the “situation in Bolivia” but did not use the term “coup d’état” employed by the Bolivian president.

“The United States is closely monitoring the situation in Bolivia and urges calm and restraint,” the White House representative told EFE.

Several Countries Reject Attempted Coup

Chilean President Gabriel Boric also expressed his “concern” over the attempted coup by a sector of the Bolivian Army against Luis Arce’s government.

“We express our support for democracy in Bolivia and the legitimate government of Luis Arce. We strongly condemn the unacceptable act of force by a sector of that country’s army,” Boric denounced on his social networks.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro also rejected the “military coup in Bolivia” and invited “the entire Bolivian people to democratic resistance.” “Latin America must unite in favor of democracy. The Colombian embassy must provide refuge to the persecuted. There will be no diplomatic relations between Colombia and the dictatorship,” stated Petro.

“The Colombian government strongly condemns the actions of some units of the Bolivian Army near the Government Palace in the city of La Paz, which threaten to break the constitutional order in that country and directly undermine democracy and regional stability,” the Colombian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, not mentioning a “coup d’état.”

Colombia sent its “solidarity” to the people of Bolivia and Arce and demanded the “restoration of institutional channels for dialogue and respect for human rights.”

The events were also condemned by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, who assured that the organization “will not allow the constitutional order to be broken in Bolivia.”

Spain also unanimously condemned any attempt to undermine the constitutional order in Bolivia after the country suffered an attempted coup. Both the government and the opposition agreed to condemn the events and defend democracy in Bolivia.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stressed that “Spain strongly condemns the military movements in Bolivia. We send our support and solidarity to the Bolivian government and people and call for respect for democracy and the rule of law”.

Similarly, Mexican Foreign Minister Alicia Barcena called for respect for the “democratic order” in light of the crisis in Bolivia, where President Luis Arce denounced “an attempted coup” following a military movement in which the Bolivian Army stormed the Executive headquarters.

“Unconditional support and solidarity to the constitutional president of the Plurinational State of Bolivia @LuchoXBolivia (Arce) and his people. We call for respect for the popular will and the democratic order,” wrote the Foreign Minister.

Barcena warned that “Mexico remains vigilant,” while its Embassy in La Paz urged its nationals in the Andean country to contact emergency numbers for the Mexican community abroad.

Barcena also “joined the strong condemnation” of President Andes Manuel López Obrador “of the actions of a faction of the Bolivian Armed Forces and their violent incursion into the Government Palace.”

“We express the strongest condemnation of the attempted coup in Bolivia. Our total support and backing to President Luis Alberto Arce, the true democratic authority of that brotherly people and country,” the Mexican president posted on social networks.

Claudia Sheinbaum, president elect of the same party as Lopez Obrador, the ruling National Regeneration Movement (Morena), also offered her “support for the position of the Mexican government.”

“The uprising of some units of the Bolivian Armed Forces is an attack on democracy. We strongly condemn these events. Our unconditional support to President Luis Arce and his people,” Sheinbaum wrote on her social media. She is set to take office on October 1st.

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