What Next For Bolivia After Failed Coup?

At the end of June, Bolivia experienced its shortest ever military coup. On the 26th June, the Presidential Palace in the capital of La Paz was raided by General Juan José Zúñiga at the head of the Bolivian army in an attempted coup that lasted three hours. After a relatively quick stand-off between General Zúñiga and President Luis Arce, the army unexpectedly left, and it didn’t take long for General Zúñiga to be arrested and replaced as the head of the army.

Such a short and easily defeated coup has got many people questioning the legitimacy of the coup. Some believe, despite claims that he would never “authorise weapons to be raised against the people,” that the person behind the coup might actually be President Arce himself. “Bolivia is going through multiple crises” (Franklin Pareja), and President Arce and his Movement for Socialism (MAS) party is very unpopular with the people. With Presidential elections planned to take place next year, and a power struggle between the current President and his predecessor, former President and leader of MAS, Evo Morales, “hampering the government’s ability to do things that make the situation [in Bolivia] a little better” (Monica de Bolle), it would not be a surprise to many that President Arce looked to alternative methods in order to increase his favourability. In fact, since his arrest, General Zúñiga has insisted that the President asked him to stage a coup in order to improve his popularity within the country.

Bolivia is a country that is all too familiar with military coups, and, staged or not, this most recent attempt reignited fears of history repeating itself. Such reckless actions to ‘gain popularity’ will never  win the support of the public. However, if in fact this was a real attempt at taking control of the country, then more must be done to ensure that another attempt never happens again. Luckily no one was harmed this time. However, more often than not a military coup creates chaos that has the potential to  snowball into wider conflicts.

Since the country’s independence in 1825, Bolivia has seen revolutions, military dictatorships and 190 different coups. Bolivia has, thankfully, been a democracy for 42 years now, but this hasn’t been a comfortable time, and since President Arce’s predecessor, Evo Morales, was first elected in 2005, the country has seen much political instability. Morales ran for office on promises to fix severe economic problems, which he never delivered on. In 2019 he ran for an unconstitutional third term in a row, and despite winning the election, protesters took to the streets and the head of the army asked him to step down. A few weeks into his term he resigned after being ousted in a coup. In 2024, he made a comeback and promises to defeat President Arce in next year’s election.

The threat of conflict in Bolivia is over for now, but the future of is still uncertain. If all political parties don’t make the effort to work together to ensure peace, then the threat of a real and violent coup will always only be around the corner. The election next year will be an extremely important test to see whether or not Bolivia will be able to exercise its voting rights peacefully.

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