Bolivia’s president accuses former general of seeking presidency in failed coup

Bolivia’s president accuses former general of seeking presidency in failed coup

Bolivian president Luis Arce accused the country’s former general of planning to “take over” the government in a failed coup. The ex-general, Juan Jose Zuniga was ordered on Friday to six months of “preventive detention” for leading the failed coup earlier in the week.

Mr Zuniga led military units to gather in the main square of the capital, La Paz which houses the presidential palace and Congress.

An armoured vehicle rammed a palace door to allow soldiers to rush into the building. Tanks allegedly led by the ex-general also breached the gates of the presidential palace, as hundreds of military troops were mobilised.

The former military general faces a terrorism charge that could lead to 15-20 years in prison, as well as an armed uprising charge that could result in 5-15 years in prison.

“This preventive detention that the judge is ordering will undoubtedly set a precedent and a good signal so that this investigation can continue to advance,” Bolivian state prosecutor Cesar Siles said.

The coup attempt unfolded following months of political tension between Mr Arce and his one-time ally and former leftist president Evo Morales over control of the ruling party.

Observers say this political tension has hampered the government’s efforts to tackle an ongoing economic crisis.

The former general had earlier said he staged the coup, following an order from the president. But Mr Arce has denied involvement or prior knowledge of the ex-general’s operation.

Speaking to the Associated Press, the Bolivian president denied that the coup was self-orchestrated to garner him political points.

“I didn’t escape. I stayed to defend democracy,” Mr Arce said.

He also denied that Bolivia was in an economic crisis.

The country’s foreign currency reserves are dwindling and its natural gas exports are plummeting.

But Mr Arce said his government “has taken action” to address the country’s gasoline and dollar shortages and other economic hurdles.

“Bolivia has an economy that’s growing. An economy in crisis doesn’t grow,” the president said, adding that the government was working on diversifying production and investing in options like lithium mining.

The Andean country has the world’s largest known reserves of lithium, an element considered key to global green transition amid the ongoing climate crisis.

However, lithium production in the South American country has largely remained untapped until now due to government policy.

Additional reporting with agencies...