General arrested after attempted coup


Lerato Khumalo

A coup was averted in democratically governed Bolivia. A general has now been arrested.

After an attempted coup in Bolivia, the leader of the putschists has been arrested. General Juan José Zúñiga Macías was arrested in La Paz on Wednesday, local media reported. The Attorney General’s Office has launched an investigation against the officer and his co-conspirators. Zúñiga is accused of terrorism and armed rebellion against the security and sovereignty of the state.

President Luis Arce removed the army chief from office and replaced the entire leadership of the armed forces. The new heads of the armed forces then ordered the withdrawal of troops from the city center of the government seat of La Paz.

Previously, soldiers under Zúñiga’s command had occupied the central square of La Paz and rammed the doors of the government palace with a tank, as was seen on Bolivian television. “We have come to express our displeasure,” said Zúñiga. In front of media representatives, he spoke of “attacks on democracy” without elaborating.

“We condemn the irregular mobilizations of some units of the Bolivian army. Democracy must be respected,” wrote Bolivia’s President Luis Arce on the news platform X. “We cannot allow coup attempts.”

Apparently, the attempted coup was directed against a renewed presidential candidacy by former head of state Evo Morales, who ruled from 2006 to 2019. The left-wing head of state resigned in 2019 under pressure from the military after the opposition and international election observers accused him of fraud in the presidential election.

Morales and the incumbent head of state Arce are currently fighting for the leadership role in their party MAS ahead of the 2025 elections. “The president told me that the situation is very bad,” General Zúñiga said on television before his arrest. “It is necessary to prepare something to increase his popularity.”

In Latin America, the armed forces stage coups from time to time. In the 1970s and 1980s in particular, many countries in the region were ruled by military juntas. In Argentina, Chile and Brazil, tens of thousands of people fell victim to their tyranny.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen sharply criticized the attempted coup in Bolivia. “I firmly condemn the attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Bolivia,” von der Leyen wrote late Wednesday evening on Platform X. The European Union stands on the side of democracies.

Several Latin American presidents also condemned the military’s move. “We condemn any form of coup in Bolivia and reaffirm our commitment to the people and democracy in our sister country,” said Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

Chile’s President Gabriel Boric wrote on the news platform X: “We cannot tolerate any violation of the legitimate constitutional order in Bolivia or anywhere else.”