Bolivian President Denounces Apparent Military Coup Attempt
Bolivian President Denounces Apparent Military Coup Attempt

By Autumn Spredemann

SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia—On the afternoon of June 26, an army vehicle and several dozen soldiers forced their way into Bolivia’s presidential residence in Plaza Murillo in La Paz, allegedly at the behest of former Gen. Juan Jose Zuniga.

The general confronted President Luis Arce, who has faced increased scrutiny in recent months amid ongoing fuel and U.S. dollar shortages, according to local media.

After entering Palacio Quemado, Gen. Zuniga told local reporters: “We want to recover the true democracy. We want to free all political prisoners.”

The move sent shockwaves throughout the country, prompting residents to immediately flock to grocery stores and gas stations in preparation for a possible military coup d’etat.

“We denounce the irregular mobilizations of some units of the Bolivian Army. Democracy must be respected,” President Acre wrote on X.

President Arce is the current head of the Movement for Socialism party, known locally as the MAS, which has been in power since 2006.

After speaking with Gen. Zuniga, President Arce called a press conference.

“The military is shaming their uniforms … Bolivian people love their democracy,” President Arce said, adding the military was “damaging” the international reputation of Bolivia.

President Arce then announced that Mr. Zuniga was removed from his post and that Wilson Sanchez Velasquez was the new chief commander of Bolivia’s army.

The former military commander and his armed supporters promptly withdrew their forces from Plaza Murillo outside the presidential palace shortly after the meeting.

The United States said it is closely monitoring the situation and urged calm and restraint.

Lines of traffic waiting to get into a gas station in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on June 26, 2024. (Autumn Spredemann/The Epoch Times)

Ahead of the attack on the presidential palace, Gen. Zuniga had addressed reporters in the square and cited growing anger in the landlocked country, which has been battling an economic slump with depleted central bank reserves and pressure on the boliviano currency as gas exports have dried up.

“The three chiefs of the armed forces have come to express our dismay,” Gen. Zuniga told a local TV station, calling for a new cabinet of ministers.

“Stop destroying, stop impoverishing our country, stop humiliating our army,” he said, while in uniform and flanked by soldiers. He said the action being taken was supported by the public.

Bolivia’s public prosecutor’s office said it intends to launch a criminal investigation against Gen. Zuniga and others involved in the attempted coup.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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