Bolivian President Survives Coup Attempt, Calls for Respect for Democracy, Army General Arrested

Following an attempted coup, Bolivian President Luis Arce appointed new leaders for the country’s armed forces. Military units used armored vehicles to forcefully enter the government palace before the allegedly responsible army general, Juan José Zúñiga, was arrested.

As news of the new army, navy, and air force heads spread, supporters of the government rallied in support.

“The country is facing an attempted coup. We are here, firmly in Casa Grande, to confront any attempt to overthrow the government. We need the Bolivian people to organize,” Arce stated in a video message.

Footage captured troops setting up blockades outside the government palace. Arce condemned the actions of the troops, stating that they were “staining the uniform” of the military.

“I order all mobilized troops to return to their units,” the newly appointed military chief, José Wilson Sánchez, declared. “No one wants to see the images we’re witnessing in the streets.”

Following these orders, troops began withdrawing from the presidential palace. 

Arce confronted Zúñiga, who had been relieved of his military command and was seemingly leading the rebellion, in the palace hallway. This confrontation was captured on video and shared online. Zúñiga was later apprehended after the attorney general launched an investigation. The specific charges against him remain unclear.

Zúñiga claimed that Arce instructed him to storm the palace as a political maneuver.

“The president told me: ‘The situation is dire, extremely critical. We need to prepare something to boost my popularity’,” Zúñiga told reporters.

Zúñiga further revealed that he asked Arce if he should “deploy the armored vehicles,” to which Arce responded, “Take them out.”

“I am your captain, and I order you to withdraw your soldiers. I will not tolerate this insubordination,” Sánchez declared. 

On X, Arce called for “respect for democracy.”

The United States issued a statement expressing its close monitoring of the situation and urged calm and restraint.

Bolivia, a nation of 12 million people, has witnessed intensifying protests in recent months due to the country’s economic decline. The once rapidly growing economy has now become one of the most crisis-stricken on the continent.

The country has also experienced a high-profile rift at the highest levels of the governing party. Arce and his former ally, leftist icon and ex-President Morales, have been embroiled in a power struggle for the future of Bolivia’s splintered Movement for Socialism (MAS) ahead of the 2025 elections.

The leadership of Bolivia’s largest labor union condemned the attempted coup and announced an indefinite strike of social and labor organizations in La Paz in support of the government.

The incident sparked outrage among regional leaders, including the Organization of American States, Chilean President Gabriel Boric, the leader of Honduras, and former Bolivian leaders.

The most recent attempted coup on the continent occurred in December 2022 when was arrested on the same day he attempted to dissolve Congress, declare a state of emergency, and rewrite the constitution. He was subsequently impeached and removed from office.  

“Brazil’s position is clear. I am a staunch advocate for democracy and I want it to prevail throughout Latin America. We condemn any form of coup d’état in Bolivia and reaffirm our commitment to the people and democracy in our sister country,” Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wrote on X.