“Moment of maximum political tension” in Bolivia, faced with a coup attempt

Confusion reigned for several hours on Wednesday in La Paz. “Tanks in the streets”, headlined the Argentinian daily Clarin. On Twitter, former President Evo Morales warned of an imminent risk of a coup d’état, led by the former head of the army who had just been dismissed from his duties, against Luis Arce, in power since 2020 and precisely on bad terms with Morales, his former ally, remind her BBC.

Arce in turn commented on the situation on social media as troops attempted to take control of the government headquarters. The officer Juan José Zuñiga, at the head of the rebellion, was finally arrested after what The Country qualified of “moment of maximum political tension”.

“The military crisis occurs in the middle of a fratricidal war within the indigenous revolution and the Movement towards Socialism (MAS) in power: on the one hand the arcistas, who support the president and among whom until yesterday even counted Zúñiga itself, and on the other, the sector led by former president Evo Morales”, summary El Mundo to contextualize the events.

“This military operation is one of the consequences of the political war within the MAS, but not the only one. The political paralysis has had a direct impact on the economy and provoked social protests in recent days”insists the Spanish newspaper.

Around 3 p.m., “the general commander of the army, Juan José Zúñiga, arrived at the scene in a tank and armed”, reports La Razon. “Zúñiga, you still have time”shouted the Minister of Government, Eduardo del Castillo, in an attempt to dissuade him. “Right now, armed forces personnel and tanks are deployed in Murillo Square. We call on social movements in the countryside and cities to defend democracy”posted Evo Morales on Twitter.

“The army erected barricades to prevent people from reaching Murillo Square”signals El País, specifying that she also threw tear gas at the demonstrators. Wednesday afternoon, Bolivian democracy “appeared in peril as television showed masked members of the military police forcing their way into the Palacio Quemado”, describes the Guardian.

No support for the mutineers

El Mundo says that Zúñiga“armed and in uniform, appeared in front of television cameras in Murillo Square, after getting off a tank”. For the officer, “an elite took control of the country, vandals who destroyed the country”. So, he added, “the armed forces intend to restructure democracy so that it is a real democracy, and not that of owners who have been in power for 30 or 40 years”.

The day before, the soldier had been dismissed from his post for comments perceived as a threat against Morales. “The origin of the controversy surrounding the military leader is a statement in the No Mentirás program on Monday evening”, clarifies The Tercera, from neighboring Chile. Asked what his reaction would be if the former Bolivian president decided to run again in the November 2025 election, he replied that he would prevent him because we cannot allow the Constitution to be trampled. We are the armed wing of the people. The Constitution says that he cannot be president for more than two terms and this gentleman has already been re-elected for three, four terms. The mission of the armed forces is to ensure respect for the political Constitution of the State”.

But in the end, his action failed. “The riot united the opposition in support of the government, even the most radical groups”notes El País. Zúñiga did not have enough support to unseat Arce, who spoke directly to him in the corridors of the presidential palace in front of television cameras. “I am your captain. I will not allow this insubordination”he told him.

In the process, the president appointed new leaders at the head of the army, air force and navy, pushing the mutinous soldiers to back down. “In less than two hours, they had left the palace”, note it Washington Post, speaking before this departure of the troops of a “chaos”. Arrested, Zuñiga should be charged with terrorism and armed uprising. On the balcony of the Casa Grande, very close to the Palacio Quemado, a Bolivian flag in his hands, Arce celebrated with the crowd the failure of the coup d’état, indicates the American daily.

Leaders in Latin America and Europe were quick to criticize the ongoing initiative. The Paraguayan president, for example, launched “a forceful call for respect for democracy and the rule of law”. Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, had warned on Twitter that “the European Union condemns any attempt to disrupt the constitutional order in Bolivia”.

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