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Police arrests Bolivian failed coup leader, others

Bolivian police arrested the country’s military leader, General Juan Zúñiga, for leading a coup and rebellion against the government, hours after the presidential palace in La Paz was taken over by soldiers.

Before the coup kicked off, hundreds of troops and armored vehicles had taken up position on Murillo Square, where key government buildings were located.

The rebel military leader in charge, General Zúñiga, had said he wanted to “restructure democracy” and that, while he respected President Luis Arce for now, there would be a change of government.

He was later arrested, seconds after telling reporters the military had intervened at the president’s request.

Zúñiga was removed from his role on Tuesday, after he made inflammatory comments about Bolivia’s former president, Evo Morales, during an interview the previous day.

President Arce condemned the coup attempt, calling on the public to organize and mobilize in favor of democracy. “We cannot allow once again coup attempts to take Bolivian lives,” he said in a televised message to the country from inside the presidential palace.

He also announced appointing new military commanders, confirming reports that General Zúñiga had been dismissed after openly criticizing Morales, Bolivia’s former president.

Morales, who also condemned the coup attempt, called for criminal charges to be brought against General Zúñiga and his “accomplices”.

The public prosecutor’s office has opened a criminal investigation. The head of the Bolivian Navy, Vice-Admiral Juan Arnez Salvador, has also been arrested.

The soldiers’ retreat was followed by the arrest of Zúñiga after the attorney general opened an investigation.

The apparent coup attempt came as the country has faced months of tensions and political fights between Arce and his one-time ally, former president Evo Morales, over control of the ruling party. It also came amid a severe economic crisis.

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