Bolivian Army Units Withdraw from La Paz Following Alleged Coup Attempt

President Luis Arce has dismissed the general who deployed troops in La Paz.

Heavily armed soldiers on armored personnel carriers have withdrawn from the central Plaza Murillo square in Bolivia’s capital La Paz after President Luis Arce condemned what he said was a coup attempt against his government.

A group of soldiers led by the commander of the Armed Forces General Juan Jose Zuniga occupied the square on Wednesday and entered the presidential palace. Arce denounced the “irregular mobilization of some units of the Bolivian Army” and dismissed Zuniga, replacing him with Jose Wilson Sanchez.

Sanchez then promptly ordered the troops to leave the square. “All personnel that have been mobilized in the streets must return to their units,” the new commander said in his first speech.

Arce later appeared on the balcony of the presidential palace, thanking his supporters. “No one can take away the democracy that we have won at the ballot box,” the president told the jubilant crowd. “We will continue working for the Bolivian people.”

Immediately after the army was deployed to La Paz, supporters of Arce and the ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS) party took to the streets, demanding that the troops return to their barracks. Many politicians and officials denounced the actions of the army, as did the EU and the majority of the leaders of South America.

“We condemned the events in Bolivia. The army must submit itself to the legitimately elected civil power,” said Luis Almagro, leader of the Organization of American States (OAS).

General Zuniga has justified his actions by claiming that he wanted to “restore democracy” and free “all Bolivian political prisoners,” including former interim president Jeanine Anez and former governor of the Santa Cruz province Luis Fernando Camacho.

Anez is serving a 10-year prison sentence after being convicted of violating the constitution during the 2019 ouster of then-President Evo Morales.