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The Alleged Failed Coup in Bolivia Was Actually a Political Maneuver by a Failed Socialist Regime

Summary:
This week on Wednesday 26th at around 2:30 of the afternoon military forces in ski masks took Plaza Murillo, the main plaza where the seat of the Bolivian government resides. Actions that at first seemed totally out of the ordinary, actions taken from history books, as a military coup has not happened since the 1980’s. However, the truth of the matter is much more complex than what the official government and international news outlets let on.After irregular military forces took the plaza with armored vehicles and soldiers under the command of General Juan Jose Zuñiga. The Minister of government  came out of the government palace and hitting the window of the armored vehicle shouted at the general to demobilize the troops immediately. After some time, in which the

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This week on Wednesday 26th at around 2:30 of the afternoon military forces in ski masks took Plaza Murillo, the main plaza where the seat of the Bolivian government resides. Actions that at first seemed totally out of the ordinary, actions taken from history books, as a military coup has not happened since the 1980’s. However, the truth of the matter is much more complex than what the official government and international news outlets let on.

After irregular military forces took the plaza with armored vehicles and soldiers under the command of General Juan Jose Zuñiga. The Minister of government  came out of the government palace and hitting the window of the armored vehicle shouted at the general to demobilize the troops immediately. After some time, in which the population of La Paz speculated of a possible military coup against the socialist government, General Zuñiga descended from the armored vehicle announcing the following:

We respond to the cry of the people, the people ask for enough, enough of the looting in the country. Enough of the outrage to the country

Later at around 4:00 pm an armored vehicle rammed into the gates of the government palace and Zuñiga entered along side an escort of soldiers. Inside the palace Zuñiga’s forces came face to face with President Luis Arce and his cabinet who ordered him to stand down. Later the general announced that the military was going to “restructure” the decaying democracy and promised to release all the political prisoners that the government has arrested through the years. However his forces did nothing more than remain in the plaza until President Arce replaced the military high command and ordered all military personal to retire, which the soldiers swiftly did, abandoning Plaza Murillo without major incident.

If there is something Bolivia has experience with, it is military coups, as the country has experienced countless attempts by the military to take control of the government all the way since the foundation of the country, with some successful and some a failure. However, this 21st century “military coup” was out of the ordinary from the beginning to the end, with very strong hints at a self-made coup, a political circus to increase the declining popularity of the governing party.

And something that the history of Bolivia shows, both in successful and unsuccessful coups is a set of actions taken. Military forces would be as discreet as possible until they are in reach of the authorities they want to overthrow, and then they would capture all possible leaders of the government, unions and social organizations, to force then the current president to resign and grant some sort of legal authority to the coup. It is peculiar, to say the least, to just march to the plaza and remain there without taking any action of consequence for a couple of hours and then after the cameras of every international outlet is pointed at the government, retreat. Not only that, but as we have seen, General Zuñiga has had every possible opportunity to capture the president and his entire cabinet and has done nothing.

Some of the events that took place seem to be taken from a movie script from the depths of Hollywood. From the initial yet inconsequential show of force, to a member of the cabinet nocking at the windows of a fully armored vehicle surrounded by soldiers and shouting at them, to the face of a general with a squad of armed soldiers at his back to a president and his defenseless cabinet, where without any notable fear said president orders them to stand down.

The Economy of Bolivia is hanging of a thread as the natural gas reserves deplete, the main source of income of an otherwise inefficient and wasteful government. As the real price of the dollar increases, from the official exchange rate of 6.96 Bs per dollar to unofficial rates of 8.40, 8.70 even reaching 9 bolivianos per dollar. Making it difficult to say the least for businesses to work, function, bring goods from outside and saving for the future. And the people started noticing.

 It would not be the first time that an autocratic, populist or socialist nation does a self-coup to increase popularity. Instead of a population angry at the decaying economy and a government that seems helpless in the face of a crisis they create a government that was able to “stop” a military coup, something that hasn’t happened since the 80’s, in a matter of a couple of hours. Instead of a useless cabinet, you have politicians that stood face to face with armed soldiers without fear.

The repercussions begin to look grim once we analyze every tool the socialist party gain by their actions, for it is not only a distraction of the real problems of the nation. They also legitimize a persecution tool for incarceration and arrests in future protests under the banner of stopping coup attempts, and such mass incarcerations would have a precedent as it was the case in Turkey’s “failed coup”  in 2016. But we are not only talking about hypothetical future arrests as there are already 21 apprehended  for the “coup attempt” including military officers, retired military members and civilians, the question that we need asking is were they part of a true coup attempt or have they been targeted as detractors of the government party inside military ranks.

Bolivia has lived through countless military coups and the people have learned to know better, most opposition members, many political analysts and even Evo Morales wing of the socialist party MAS that have been in friction with the current president’s wing have denounced a self-coup to increase popularity. For it is obvious to anyone that has ears to listen and eyes to see that a military force taking a plaza for two hours, giving enough time for official sources to denounce a coup to the international community, yet not taking any real action against the government, just to retire back to their quarters afterwards is no coup, but a political maneuver.

And to put the cherry on the cake of this hole operation just before being apprehended that Wednesday, on a press conference, General Zuñiga said the following:

The president told me that the situation was screwed, and he needed something to raise his popularity… I asked him if we could take out (the military vehicles), so he (Luis Arce) answered yes. So, on Sunday night the armored vehicles began to descend. Six rattlesnakes and six Urutus, plus 14 Zetas from the Achacachi regiment.

By the General own words, the whole ordeal was planned by the government. That is not to say that he could not have lied just before being taken by the police. However, there are only two possible scenarios, that on a moment where the government most needed to solve a crisis a group of militaries decided to perform the worst coup attempt in the history of the nation, with all the opportunities to capture the president and cabinet, but not doing anything. Or a government swiftly losing popularity in an economy at the edge of crisis decided to do a self-coup, increasing the perceived strength of the government and getting some more time before everything collapses.


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