July 17, 2024

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Bolivia attempted a coup: troops and armored vehicles withdraw from the presidential palace

Bolivia attempted a coup: troops and armored vehicles withdraw from the presidential palace

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Armored vehicles stormed the doors of the Bolivian government palace Wednesday in an apparent coup attempt against President Luis Arce, but he vowed to stand firm and appointed a new army chief who ordered troops to stand down.

The soldiers later withdrew as Arce’s supporters waved Bolivian flags and chanted in the central square.

In a video of Arce surrounded by ministers at the palace, the Bolivian leader said: “Here we are standing firm in Casa Grande to confront any coup attempt. We need the Bolivian people to organize.

Arce confronted the army’s commander-in-chief — Juan José Zúñiga, who appeared to be leading the rebellion — in the entrance of the palace, as seen in a video on Bolivian television. “I am your commander, I order you to withdraw your soldiers, and I will not allow this disobedience,” Arce said.

Before entering the government building, Zuniga told reporters in the square: “It is certain that soon there will be a new cabinet; “Our country and our state cannot continue like this.” But he said that “for now” he recognizes Arce as commander-in-chief.

Zuniga did not explicitly say he was leading a coup, but he said in the palace, amid the sounds of explosions behind him, that the army was trying to “restore democracy and free our political prisoners.”

In a message on his account on the “X” website, Arce called for “respect for democracy.” This came at a time when Bolivian television showed two tanks and a number of men in military uniform in front of the government palace.

“We cannot again allow coup attempts that take the lives of Bolivians,” he said from inside the palace, surrounded by government officials, in a video message sent to the media.

An hour later, Arce announced new commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force to roars of supporters. A video clip showed forces setting up barricades outside the government palace.

“I ordered all those gathered to return to their units,” newly appointed army commander Jose Wilson Sanchez said. “Nobody wants the images we see on the streets.”

Shortly after, troops and armored vehicles began withdrawing from Bolivia’s presidential palace.

The leadership of Bolivia’s largest trade union condemned the move and declared an indefinite strike of social and labor organizations in La Paz in defense of the government.

The incident was met with a wave of anger from other regional leaders, including the Organization of American States; Gabriel Buric, president of neighboring Chile; Honduran leader, and former Bolivian leaders.

Bolivia, a country with a population of 12 million people, has witnessed intense protests in recent months due to the sharp decline of the economy from one of the fastest growing economies on the continent two decades ago to one of the economies most suffering from crises.

The country also witnessed major disagreement at the highest levels of the ruling party. Arce and his former ally, leftist icon and former president Evo Morales, are fighting for the future of the dissident Movement for Socialism in Bolivia, known by its Spanish acronym MAS, before elections scheduled for 2025.

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