In Bolivia

Chronology of the Coup Attempt in Bolivia

Originally published 27 June 2024 on TeleSUR

Former Gen. Juan Zuñiga (C) is presented to the press after his arrest, June 26, 2024. Photo: X/ @josepbastardas

 

After several hours of tension, the military gave up their actions and General Zuñiga was arrested

 

 

On Wednesday, a group of soldiers led by General Juan Zuñiga arrived heavily armed in the city of La Paz and knocked down the door of the Bolivian government headquarters with a tank.

After several hours of tension, the military gave up their coup attempt and Gen. Zuñiga was arrested. Below is the immediate background to what happened and a summary of the events.

June 24th.

During an interview with a local channel, General Juan Zuñiga, the commander of the Bolivian Army, stated that he would arrest former President Evo Morales (2006-2019) if the leader of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) tried to run as a presidential candidate. The content of the interview came to the attention of the Minister of the Presidency Maria Prada.

June 25th.

At noon on Tuesday, President Luis Arce, Prada and Defense Minister Edmundo Novillo met to analyze Gen. Zuñiga’s statements. They agreed to remove him from his command duties and summoned him to the government’s headquarters to attend a meeting.

The General attended this meeting dressed in civilian clothes. He acknowledged that he committed excesses in his statements to the press. He made himself available for whatever President Arce decides and said goodbye in a cordial manner, emphasizing that he would always support Arce.

June 26th.

Defense Minister Novillo began to define the members of a new high command in the Armed Forces. While this was happening, he received a phone call alerting him that the military was moving from the city of Challapata to La Paz.

In the morning, the military high command orders the quartering of the troops. Novillo communicates with Gen. Zuñiga and asks him for explanations about the movement of troops. The officer responded that he would find out what was happening and call him back. However, he did not do it.

Novillo contacted Gen. Marco Peñaloza, the chief of the General Staff, who responded that he had no knowledge of troop movements. After further inquiries, the Bolivian Defense Minister confirmed that the 7th, 8th, and 9th divisions had received the garrison order. Novillo informed President Arce about what was happening.

Gen. Peñaloza tried unsuccessfully to communicate with Gen. Zuñiga, Gen. Marcelo Zegarra, the commander of the Air Force, and Vice Admiral Juan Salvador, the commander of the Navy. They did not respond to his calls.

The troops from the city of Viacha moved towards La Paz. Gen. Peñaloza contacted the commander of those troops and ordered him not to mobilize them, warning him that what was happening was truly unacceptable. Defense Minister Novillo then decided to expedite the appointment of new commands in the three forces and communicated this to President Arce.

3:00 p.m. Accompanied by tanks and armed soldiers, Generals Zuñiga, Arnes, and Zegarra begin to move towards La Paz’s Murillo Square, where the headquarters of the executive and legislative branches, the chancellery, and the House of the People are located.

Through social networks, the Bolivian president denounces the irregular mobilizations of the military and asks them to respect democracy.

In Murillo Square, Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo asks Zuñiga to demobilize the troops. Castillo tells him clearly and bluntly: “Demobilize the troops! This will get worse. Zuñiga, you have time to demobilize.”

Former Bolivian president Evo Morales denounces that rebellious soldiers are carrying out a coup d’état.
After ramming a tank into the door of the Government Palace, Gen. Zuñiga enters the building, threatens the Arce administration, telling it that all forces are mobilized, and demands the formation of a new Cabinet. President Arce confronts him and demands that he demobilize the tanks and the military.

Arce, his ministers, and several representatives of social organizations call on citizens to mobilize towards the People’s Big House to defend democracy. The response is immediate: thousands of citizens flock to Murillo Square, where the military fired tear gas at civilians and injured some citizens..

Novillo summons Gen. Jose Sanchez, Gen. Gerardo Zabala, and Admiral Renan Guardia to appear at the People’s Big House, where they are installed as the new commanders of the Bolivian forces.

Meanwhile, thousands of civilians manage to overcome the siege of the military, who let them pass to Murrillo Square without resisting. “Lucho is not alone, damn it!” and “Down with the coup plotters!” are some of the phrases that the population chants en masse.

5:30 p.m. Gen. Zuñiga and the military withdraw from Murillo Square. Arce and Vice President Choquehuanca go out to the balcony of the People’s Big House and greet thousands of citizens who remain ready to defend Bolivian democracy.

7:00 p.m. The authorities detained Gen. Zuñiga when he was leaving the headquarters of the General Staff. During a press conference, Defense Minister Novillo assures that the Arce administration regained absolute control of the Armed Forces.

*****

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