Bolivian general arrested and accused of coup after dramatic showdown with president

BOLIVIA: A Bolivian general has been arrested and accused of mounting a coup against the government after attempting to storm the presidential palace on Wednesday.

Military units led by Gen. Juan Jose Zuniga – dismissed as commander of the Bolivian army just a day earlier – occupied the main square in the capital, La Paz, as armored vehicles rammed the palace door and soldiers tried to break into government offices.

Hours later, President Luis Arce – who had called on the public to “organize and mobilize” in defense of democracy – could be seen confronting Zuniga in the crowded palace hallway, ordering the general to withdraw his soldiers and stand down.

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After Zuniga was handcuffed and forced into a police car, a triumphant Arce raised his clenched fist to the huge crowds that had flocked to the presidential palace, signaling the defeat of the attempted coup.

His defense minister Edmundo Novillo later told a news conference the government had regained “total and absolute control” over its military. “We urge the population that everything goes back to normal,” he said.

Bolivia has a long history of political instability, including military coups, and the failed takeover comes as the landlocked South American country of some 12 million people struggles with a spiraling economic crisis that has sparked street protests in recent months.

The country has been wracked by dwindling foreign currency reserves, particularly the US dollar, and shortages of fuel and other basic necessities.

As he was being arrested Zuniga alleged – without providing evidence – that he was acting on Arce’s instructions.

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