Coup attempt in Bolivia as armoured vehicle seen ramming into presidential palace

Bolivian armed forces have taken over the capital’s central square as an armoured vehicle rammed through the entrance of the presidential palace as the president said the country is facing a coup attempt.

The country’s president, Luis Arce, warned an “irregular” deployment of troops had taken place and called for “democracy to be respected” on X as Bolivian TV showed two tanks and a number of soldiers in front of the government palace in La Paz.

Video on Bolivian TV showed Mr Arce confronting the general commander of the army, Juan Jose Zuniga, in the palace hallway, telling him: “I am your captain, and I order you to withdraw your soldiers, and I will not allow this insubordination.”

Before entering the building General Zuniga told journalists in the plaza: “Surely soon there will be a new cabinet of ministers; our country, our state cannot go on like this.

General Zuniga said he recognises President Arce as commander in chief “for now”.

In a video surrounded by his cabinet Mr Arce said: “The country is facing an attempted coup d’etat. Here we are, firm in Casa Grande, to confront any coup attempt. We need the Bolivian people to organise.”

General Zuniga earlier confirmed the movement of uniformed officers and said: “We are upset by the affront, enough is enough.”

He spoke on TV of “attacks on democracy” without elaborating.

General Zuniga did not explicitly say he was leading a coup, but said the army was trying to “restore democracy and free our political prisoners”.

Mr Arce called for “democracy to be respected” in a post on X.

“We cannot allow, once again, coup attempts to take the lives of Bolivians,” he said from inside the palace, surrounded by government officials, in a video message sent to news outlets.

Former Bolivian president Evo Morales denounced the movement of the military in the Murillo square outside the palace in a post on X, calling it a coup “in the making”.

Maria Nela Prada, minister of the presidency and a top Bolivian official, said military and tanks were taking over the plaza, calling it an “attempted coup d’etat”.

“The people are on alert to defend democracy,” she told local television station Red Uno.

Bolivia has faced mounting protests in recent months over the steep decline of its economy over the last two decades.

Tensions have mounted ahead of a general election next year, with Mr Morales planning to run against his former ally Mr Acre, creating a major rift in the ruling socialist party.

General Zuniga had said recently Mr Morales should not be able to return as president, which led Mr Arce to strip him of his command this week.

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