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Bolivia’s Democracy Under Siege: Military Forces Storm Government Palace

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Military gathered at Sucre, the capital of Bolivia. Yonhap News

Bolivian armed forces on Wednesday stormed the government palace with tanks and armored vehicles.

“We will reclaim our destroyed homeland,” declared General Juan Jose Zuniga, who led the coup.

In response, President Luis Arce slammed a “coup” attempt against the government and called for international support.

“I will protect democracy with the people,” Arce said.

On Wednesday, military units led by General Juan Jose Zuniga gathered in the central Plaza Murillo square, home to the government palace, Congress, and the cathedral.

The Bolivian military, forming ranks in front of the government building, partially controlled the passage of citizens and used an armored vehicle to break through the entrance of the building.

Local TV media outlets, including Televisión Boliviana, streamed the urgent situation live.

Luis Arce wrote on X, formerly Twitter, “The military was mobilized in violation of our regulations. Democracy must be respected.”

Former President Evo Morales wrote on X, “A coup is in progress.”

Local daily El Deber reported that General Juan Jose Zuniga ordered the mobilization of troops on Wednesday.

Tensions have been building up ahead of the 2025 presidential election. Zuniga, the commander-in-chief of Bolivia’s military, recently made several sensitive political remarks targeting the former President, who is expected to run in the forthcoming election.

“We cannot accept (Morales’) insulting remarks towards the military. This is an attack on democracy, and the military will restore our broken homeland, “General Zuniga told reporters. However, AP pointed out that he did not give details of Morales’ remarks that the military was dissatisfied with.

Recently, he also said, “Morales cannot return as president again. The military, as the armed wing of the people, will use all legal tools to stop Morales.”

According to El Deber, Morales’ side was preparing to lodge a lawsuit against the general.

Congressman Pedro Benjamin Vargas also condemned the general at a press conference held the day before the coup.

“We will charge General Zuniga and hand him to the prosecutor. He has repeatedly violated the constitution orders and other related laws that the military should not engage in political activities,” said Vargas.

Locally, speculations have emerged that Zuniga mobilized troops because he feared being ditched by the current president.

Tensions have been mounting between the former president and Arce, once Morales’s ‘political ally, ‘ as conflicts escalated among their supporters.

Morales rallied factions to seize hegemony within the party last year. He strongly criticized Arce, accusing his party of “planning a dirty war through judicial persecution as his party shifted to the right.”

On the day of the Coup, Arce confronted General Zuniga inside the government building, demanding the immediate withdrawal of the troops.

“As the commander-in-chief, I cannot tolerate this act of disobedience,” he reportedly stated.

In a separate emergency national address with his ministers, the president stated, “Bolivia is facing an attempted coup by the military. I and my cabinet members stand firm here to protect democracy with the people.”

He then immediately replaced the military leadership, but it has not been confirmed whether the military has accepted the change. The international community, including its neighboring countries in Central and South America and the European Union (EU), unanimously condemned the military’s use of force.

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