Bolivian president rebuffs attempted coup

Bolivian president rebuffs attempted coup

Bolivian President Luis Arce survived a coup attempt Wednesday after a group of army soldiers withdrew from La Paz’s main square, which they had occupied for about three hours.

Bolivian TV showed Arce waving to cheering crowds in Plaza Murillo after the troops, led by General Juan José Zúñiga, retreated from the area.

Arce was prepared to address the crowd, but the megaphone he was handed malfunctioned; he moved to a balcony overlooking the square to deliver his speech with a different public address system.

The coup attempt began Wednesday afternoon, as Zúñiga led a contingent of soldiers to the square, ramming the doors of Palacio Quemado, the country’s former seat of government, with an armored vehicle.

Zúñiga and some troops entered the building momentarily but later withdrew, though soldiers remained in control of the square.

Arce was presumably in a neighboring building, Casa Grande del Pueblo, the current seat of executive power.

Hours later, Arce gave his first TV address from Casa Grande, confirming the coup attempt.

Foreign leaders, including Organization of American States (OAS) Secretary General Luis Almagro, sent Arce messages of support during the coup.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla called the reports “very worrying” and expressed his solidarity with Arce; Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro denounced the coup in a TV address.

Soldiers briefly used riot gas to confront the protesters, but no casualties have been reported.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales, who led the country from 2006 to 2019, took to X to warn of military movements shortly before the coup attempt, calling the deployments “suspicious.”

Morales quickly condemned the coup and called on social movements to take the streets in opposition to the coup.

But some of his former allies pointed to Morales as being behind the attack.

While soldiers controlled the square, some legislators trickled out of the neighboring National Assembly, as crowds massed in the streets surrounding Plaza Murillo.

Bolivian Sen. Virginia Velasco Condori, who served as minister of justice under former Morales, spoke to reporters during the coup attempt outside the neighboring Legislative Assembly on Plaza Murillo.

“The guilty party here is Mr. Evo Morales, he is behind this coup d’état,” said Velasco.

Zúñiga, who led the attempt, had been removed as commander general of the Bolivian army a day prior by Arce, after the general made public statements on his desire to arrest Morales.

Morales, who became president in 2006, was forced to resign in 2019 in a political crisis that he called a coup.

Bolivia last had a military coup in 1984. That coup was unsuccessful, but it followed an era of instability from the 1960s to the early 1980s where a series of military governments ruled the country, each taking power through coups d’état.

—Updated at 6:37 p.m.

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