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Bolivian leader denies he staged coup in bid to boost popularity

A soldier in an armored vehicle is deployed outside the Quemado Palace at Plaza Murillo in La Paz. (Aizar Raldes/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Bolivia’s president denied that he staged a dramatic coup against his own administration in an attempt to improve his popularity, rebutting a detained general who said he led the uprising on executive orders.

“I say categorically that I could never, nor have I, nor would I give an instruction of that sort,” President Luis Arce told reporters Thursday night in La Paz.

Bolivia is reeling from an attempted coup d’etat on Wednesday, where troops led by General Juan Jose Zuniga took over the capital’s main square and then drove an armored vehicle into the presidential palace to force its door open.

The plot was foiled within hours. Arce appointed new military leadership, Zuniga was arrested and Bolivians widely supported the current administration.

But Zuniga made an explosive allegation as he was being detained by police. Without providing any evidence, he said Arce had asked him to execute the plot on his behalf.

“The president told me that the situation was very screwed up, that this week was going to be critical, so it’s necessary to do something to boost my popularity,” Zuniga told reporters Wednesday, adding that Arce was on board with the use of armored vehicles.

More than 17 people were arrested in the wake of the failed coup, the government said. Arce has asked for them to be prosecuted. While Bolivians panicked during the uprising — taking to ATMs to withdraw cash and stocking up on fuel and supermarket goods — Arce said normalcy has returned to the Andean nation.


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