Bolivia coup attempt fails after military assault on presidential palace

A woman reacts holding a white cloth in front of the government palace as Bolivia's President Luis Arce "denounced the irregular mobilization" of some units of the country's army, in La Paz, Bolivia June 26, 2024. REUTERS/Claudia Morales

A demonstrator kicks a teargas grenade Wednesday while facing members of Bolivia's military as Bolivia's President Luis Arce "denounced the irregular mobilization" of some units of the country's army in La Paz, Bolivia. (Claudia Morales/REUTERS)

LA PAZ — Bolivian armed forces pulled back from the presidential palace in La Paz on Wednesday evening and a general was arrested after President Luis Arce slammed a “coup” attempt against the government and called for international support.

Earlier in the day, military units led by General Juan Jose Zuniga, recently stripped of his military command, had gathered in the central Plaza Murillo square, home to the presidential palace and Congress. A Reuters witness saw an armored vehicle ram a door of the presidential palace and soldiers rush in.


“Today the country is facing an attempted coup d’état. Today the country faces once again interests so that democracy in Bolivia is cut short,” Arce said in comments from the presidential palace, with armed soldiers outside.

“The Bolivian people are summoned today. We need the Bolivian people to organize and mobilize against the coup d’état in favor of democracy.”

A few hours later, a Reuters witness saw soldiers withdraw from the square and police take control of the plaza. Bolivian authorities arrested Zuniga and took him away, though their destination was unclear.

Inside the presidential palace, Arce swore in José Wilson Sanchez as the military commander, Zuniga’s former role. He called for calm and order to be restored.

“I order that all personnel mobilized on the streets return to their units,” Sanchez said. “We entreat that the blood of our soldiers not be spilled.”

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

Tensions have been building in Bolivia ahead of general elections in 2025, with leftist ex-President Evo Morales planning to run against former ally Arce, creating a major rift in the ruling socialist party and wider political uncertainty.

Many do not want a return of Morales, who governed from 2006-2019 when he was ousted amid widespread protests and replaced by an interim conservative government. Arce then won election in 2020.

Zuniga said recently that Morales should not be able to return as president and threatened to block him if he attempted to, which led Arce to remove Zuniga from his post.

Ahead of the attack on the presidential palace, 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,” 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 in full uniform, flanked by soldiers, insisting the action being taken was supported by the public.

‘Strongest condemnation’

Morales, head of the ruling MAS socialist party, said that his supporters would mobilize in support of democracy.

“We will not allow the armed forces to violate democracy and intimidate people,” Morales said.

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

Public support for Arce and Bolivia’s democracy has poured in from regional leaders and beyond.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email