Bolivia coup fears as armoured vehicle rams into presidential palace | World | News

Bolivia‘s President Luis Arce has warned his country is facing an alleged coup following an “irregular” deployment of troops in the central square in La Paz.

A video broadcast on Bolivian TV showed Mr Arce confronting Juan Jose Zuniga, the general commander of the country’s army who is behind the alleged military takeover, in the hallway of the official presidential palace.

The political leader could be heard saying: “I am your captain, and I order you to withdraw your soldiers, and I will not allow this insubordination.”

Before entering the building, General Zuniga told journalists gathered in the square: “Surely soon there will be a new cabinet of ministers; our country, our state cannot go on like this.” He also said he recognises the authority of Mr Arce “for now”.

The military leader, who was reportedly on the verge of dismissal hours before the alleged coup, also said while speaking from the square: “We are going to recover this homeland. An elite has taken over the country, vandals who have destroyed the country. The army intends to restore true democracy.”

He added that “political prisoners”, including jailed former interim Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez, would be freed through his move.

Fears of a military takeover erupted as several members of the Bolivian army gathered in Plaza Murillo, flanked by tanks and armoured vehicles – one of which rammed through the entrance of the presidential palace.

General Zuniga didn’t elaborate on what brought the army to seemingly try to lead an uprising, saying only: “We are upset by the affront, enough is enough.”

He also spoke of “attacks on democracy” without further elaborating on what these were.

Amid growing tensions, Mr Arce – a UK-educated economist – filmed a video message inside his official residence, in which he urged citizens to take to the streets, saying: “We need the Bolivian people to mobilise and organise themselves against this coup d’état and in favour of democracy.”

Surrounded by members of his cabinet, he stated: “We cannot allow, once again, attempted coups to claim Bolivian lives.”

His allies then showed their support to the political leader, thrusting their left fists into the air and declaring: “Long live the people of Bolivia! Long live democracy! Long live our president, Luis Arce!”

Former president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, also urged supporters of the government to take to the streets and block roads to protect the country’s democracy. Mr Morales led his country between 2006 and 2019, when he stepped down amid widespread protests.

On Monday, General Zuniga appeared on television claiming he would arrest Mr Morales if he tried to run again for office next year.

The upcoming general election in Bolivia has been a source of tension in the country for multiple reasons, including the fracture in the leading socialist party created by Mr Morales’ plan to try and be re-elected.

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