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Bolivian president calls for democracy after military tanks deployed outside presidency

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A woman walks away from tear gas fired by military troops outside the Quemado Palace at Plaza Murillo in La Paz on June 26, 2024. — AFP
A woman walks away from tear gas fired by military troops outside the Quemado Palace at Plaza Murillo in La Paz on June 26, 2024. — AFP 

La Paz: Bolivian President Luis Arce has urged for democracy to be upheld following a tense incident involving soldiers and tanks outside government buildings in La Paz.

Soldiers were seen trying to force entry into the presidential palace, sparking significant alarm.

On Wednesday, journalists from international media reported that tanks and military personnel entered Plaza Murillo, a significant location housing the presidency and Congress. Eyewitnesses noted one tank attempting to breach a metal door at the presidential palace.

General Juan Jose Zuniga, the army chief, briefly entered the presidential palace before leaving on foot, according to Bolivian television. The situation raised concerns about the stability of the government.

Arce, on the social network X, highlighted, “We denounce irregular mobilizations by some units of the Bolivian Army,” and stressed the importance of respecting democracy. At the time of the statement, it was unclear if Arce was inside the presidential office.

Former President Evo Morales also took to X, warning of an imminent coup. He claimed, “a coup d’Etat is brewing,” and attributed the alleged plot to Zuniga. Morales called for a national mobilisation to protect democracy.

Rumours suggest that Zuniga faced potential dismissal. On Monday, Zuniga appeared on television threatening to arrest Morales if he pursued another presidential bid in 2025, despite his disqualification.

Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, faced controversy in 2019 when he sought a fourth term, contravening the constitution. Following a disputed election and deadly protests, he resigned and left Bolivia but returned after Arce’s victory in 2020.

Earlier this year, Morales’ supporters organised road blockades protesting his disqualification.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) condemned the military’s actions. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro declared, “The international community, the general secretariat of the OAS will not tolerate any form of breach of the legitimate constitutional order in Bolivia or anywhere else.”

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