The Bolivian people defeated another coup

People responded en masse after military forces had mobilized to the center of La Paz and surrounded the Palace of the Government

June 26, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch
Bolivian President Luis Arce addresses the crowd in Plaza Murillo. Photo: Ivan Bellot

“No one can take away our democracy!”

Bolivian President Luis Arce addressed the people of Bolivia on the afternoon of Wednesday June 26 to declare that the attempted military coup had been defeated.

On the afternoon of June 26, hundreds of military personnel had mobilized under the order of General Juan Zúñiga in the center of La Paz and surrounded the Quemado Palace (the government palace) ahead of a ministerial meeting. They proceeded to break down the main door to the palace with a tank and attempted to enter by force.

Zúñiga then announced that the military personnel would mobilize to the prison and free Bolivia’s “political prisoners” including Jeanine Áñez and Luis Fernando Camacho who are imprisoned over their involvement in the 2019 coup against Evo Morales. Áñez later wrote on X that she rejected the attempt by the military to destroy constitutional order and that “MAS with Arce and Evo should leave through the ballot box in 2025. Bolivians will defend democracy.”

Former Bolivian president Evo Morales immediately alerted to the development and called on the Bolivian people to mobilize in defense of democracy.

Bolivia’s foreign minister Celinda Sosa said in a video message, “The Plurinational State of Bolivia denounces to the international community the irregular mobilizations of some units of the Bolivian Army that attack democracy, peace, and security of the country. We call on the international community, on the Bolivian population to make sure that democratic values are respected.”

While the army attempted to storm the palace, hundreds of Bolivian people began to mobilize to demand that democracy be respected and the army stand down. These protests with members of mass organizations, trade unions, and the general population were met with heavy repression by the military police officers who shot tear gas indiscriminately and blocked off access to the Plaza Murillo.

The Bolivian Workers’ Central (COB) representing over 2 million workers, declared an indefinite general strike and “the mobilization of all social and union organizations to the city La Paz to defend and restore the constitutional order and our legally established government in Bolivia.”

After an hour of the military encirclement of the Palace, Bolivian President Luis Arce held a press conference to name José Sánchez as the new military command to replace Zúñiga. Sánchez ordered the military personnel that had mobilized to the center to return to their stations to avoid any bloodshed of the Bolivian people and affirmed that he supported the legal and constitutional government of Luis Arce.

A video also emerged of Arce confronting Zúñiga in the palace and firmly telling him to stand down and respect democracy.

Shortly after the pronouncement by Arce and Sánchez, the tanks that had initially blocked off the plaza and surrounded the palace began to withdraw, and thousands of people flooded the area to affirm their rejection of the attempted coup and support to Arce. “Arce you’re not alone! Long live democracy!” they declared.

The attempted coup in Bolivia had international repercussions. Political leaders across Latin America and the Caribbean vehemently rejected the attempt by a fraction of the Army to subvert Bolivian democracy and celebrated the swift defeat of the attempt. Many highlighted that this took place just five years after the coup d’état which took Evo Morales out of office and installed the de facto leader Jeanine Áñez. After a year of resistance and violent repression to anti-coup protests, the Bolivian people restored democracy and elected Luis Arce.

Xiomara Castro, the president of Honduras and the pro-tempore president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), called on all the presidents of CELAC member countries to “condemn the fascism that today threatens democracy in Bolivia and demand the respect of civil power and the Constitution.”

The International Peoples’ Assembly (IPA) wrote in a statement, “The heroic people of Bolivia have successfully defeated the coup! The people’s movements mobilized to defend the democratic government of President Luis Arce. We will always stand with democracy and sovereignty—today we saw the Bolivian people rise up against the Bolivian elites and their US masters’ attempts to destabilize the country.”

COB and other organizations in Bolivia have celebrated the people’s victory but also called on the Bolivian people and the international community to continue their vigil and state of alert against any further coup attempts.