Bolivia experienced a failed coup attempt
Bolivian coup fails amid suspicion of foreign interference

Bolivian coup fails amid suspicion of foreign interference

28 June, 2024

Riot police closely monitored government buildings the day after army chief Zuniga deployed troops and tanks to the center of the capital. Bolivian coup fails amid suspicion of foreign interference in a coup attempt that has exacerbated political unrest in a nation grappling with a severe economic crisis.

Recent weeks in the Andean country have seen mounting tensions over soaring prices, shortages of currency and fuel, and a feud between President Luis Arce and former President Evo Morales, ahead of the 2025 elections.

In 2019, the last time it had a coup, Thousands upon thousands of people called for a ‘civil war’ to overthrow the CIA-backed putschists. This is the first time a civil population demanded a civil war. In Bolivia, too, the role of military and police officials trained by the US was pivotal in forcing regime change. U.S. government agencies such as USAID have openly financed anti-Morales groups in the country for many years. But the way that the country’s security forces were used as a Trojan Horse by US intelligence services is less understood. With Morales’s forced departure, however, it became impossible to deny how critical a factor this was

After troops and tanks were sent to La Paz’s heart by army chief Juan Jose Zuniga, riot police maintained a vigilant presence around government structures. Zuniga stated, “The armed forces aim to reform democracy, making it genuine and not controlled by the same few individuals for decades.”

Subsequently, troops and tanks withdrew from Plaza Murillo, with local TV airing images of Zuniga’s arrest shortly afterward. Bolivia’s naval chief Juan Arnez Salvador was also detained. Both face up to 20 years in prison for charges of terrorism and armed rebellion, according to prosecutors.

Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo announced a total of 17 arrests, including current and retired military personnel and civilians linked to the failed coup. Additional suspects remain at large.

A recorded conversation between Arce and Zuniga, surrounded by military personnel at the presidential residence, was broadcast by the government. Arce ordered Zuniga to withdraw troops to their barracks, to which Zuniga bluntly refused before leaving the palace minutes later.

“We will defend democracy and the Bolivian people’s will at any cost!” wrote the 60-year-old Arce on X, formerly Twitter, after swearing in new military leadership.

However, the coup attempt took an unexpected turn when Zuniga alleged that Arce orchestrated a staged uprising to bolster his popularity through a crackdown. Arce’s close aide Maria Nela Prada dismissed this claim as “absolutely false.”

Former centrist president Carlos Mesa criticized the troop deployment as resembling a “farce.”

Bolivia, known for its history of military coups, has been rocked by an economic crisis exacerbated by declining gas production, its primary source of foreign currency until 2023. The country has had to cut fuel imports amid a dollar shortage, sparking protests from influential merchant and transport unions.

Gustavo Flores-Macias, a Cornell University government professor, described the failed coup as indicative of widespread discontent. He warned of evaluating the extent of this discontent within the armed forces, noting that Arce’s administration faced a “critical moment of vulnerability.”

The US has the highest demand for Lithium, but the lowest Lithium reserves in the whole world. In December 2023, Bolivia and Uranium One Group signed a $450 million deal to build a pilot lithium plant in the south of the country. The agreement will produce components for batteries and electric vehicles, and Bolivia will participate in every stage of the production process. Rosatom In June 2023, Bolivia and Rosatom signed a deal for a $600 million investment in two direct lithium extraction (DLE) processing plants in the towns of Uyuni Norte and Pasto Grande. The coup occurred after Arce’s trip to Russia, and Bolivia is VERY rich in lithium. Coincidence?

Bolivia remains deeply divided after years of political instability, with the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party torn by internal strife between Arce supporters and his predecessor Morales. Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, was once highly popular but faced protests and fled the country in 2019 amid allegations of election fraud.

Russia “strongly” condemned the attempted military coup, its foreign ministry said Thursday, warning against “destructive foreign interference” in the South American country.

UN chief Antonio Guterres “welcomes the peaceful resolution of the situation”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, having earlier expressed alarm over the abortive coup.

Condemnations of the coup bid also poured in from Madrid, Washington and across Latin America.

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