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Bolivian Coup Plotters Charged with Terrorism, Face Long Jail Sentences

The facts behind yesterday’s coup attempt in Bolivia by former commander in chief of the Army, Gen. Juan José Zúñiga, and the former Naval commander Vice Admiral Juan Arnez are still being sorted out. In statements last night and today, Interior Minister Eduardo Del Castillo announced that the two military leaders have been arrested and will be charged with terrorism and “armed uprising against the security and sovereignty of the state.” Other charges may be added, but both will serve long jail sentences. Moreover, Del Castillo reported, another 17 individuals, mostly military, have also been arrested and investigations are ongoing into many others who were involved. He named all those under arrest but made clear that General Zúñiga had been the top leader in charge of “preparation and planning” for the whole operation and that preparations for the revolt began sometime in May.

Zúñiga’s forces were clearly not representative of the entirety of the army, although that institution is certainly divided. Nor did he have the support of broad sectors of the population which he had counted on. It’s notable that in making his demands, chief among which was that former President Evo Morales not be allowed to run for President in the 2025 elections, Zúñiga said he was calling for the freedom of “political prisoners,” a removal of those “elites” who were only governing for “a few,” and the naming of an entirely new cabinet.

Which “political prisoners”? He named Jeanine Áñez, who was installed as President after Evo Morales was ousted in a November 2019 coup, and is now serving a ten-year jail sentence for her role in the operation. He also named the jailed fascist, Governor of Santa Cruz Fernando Camacho, who was a leading organizer of that same 2019 coup, as well as a longtime toady of the U.S. State Department and Project Democracy apparatus, which orchestrated the 2019 coup. He apparently also tried to rally some of the opposition to Arce, whose pedigrees are similar to those of Áñez and Camacho.

Del Castillo also revealed that it wasn’t just Zúñiga and Áñez who “planned and conspired” to carry out the coup, but that many others would be investigated and charged with “armed insurrection, assault on the presidency and destruction of private and public goods,” among other things. In a June 26 press conference by the entire cabinet, the ministers urged Bolivians to refrain from trying to politicize the coup event, as there are various reports and rumors circulating that Arce himself staged a “self-coup” in collusion with Zúñiga as a means of increasing his popularity, a charge the government has adamantly denied.