Key Things to Know – The World Peace Organization

Key Things to Know – The World Peace Organization

On Wednesday, June 26, 2024, Bolivian President Luis Arce thwarted a coup attempt when soldiers in military vehicles entered Plaza Murillo, a historic square in the capital of La Paz, where the presidential palace and Congress are located. The coup attempt was led by Bolivian Army Commander Juan José Zuniga, who was arrested hours after attempting to storm the presidential palace and the capital. Army Commander Zuniga argued that President Arce was impoverishing the country as he grappled with economic hardships affecting the nation of 12 million people. In addition to a shortage of U.S. dollars, foreign exchange reserves have declined and Bolivia’s budget deficit has widened during Arce’s term. Bolivia’s current economic situation is dire, with the International Monetary Fund predicting modest growth of just 1.6%, compounded by the global financial crunch and ongoing conflicts. Arce appointed Zuniga as his commander-general in 2022, and he has previously held senior military positions. However, their relationship has deteriorated, and Zuniga has publicly criticized Arce in the week following the coup attempt. Video footage from Wednesday, June 26, shows an intense confrontation between President Arce and Commander Zuniga, who was surrounded by soldiers.

The attempted coup in Bolivia is a stark reminder of the fragility of democracy and the serious repercussions of political and military unrest. The event, although ultimately foiled by President Arce, raises several critical questions that deserve detailed examination. Zuniga claimed that the military was attempting to free political prisoners, arguing that the coup would strengthen true democracy. After Zuniga’s arrest, Bolivian Justice Minister Ivan Lima announced that Zuniga would face criminal charges of armed uprisings, incitement of troops, and attacks on the president and state officials. The coup attempt was widely condemned by international leaders, including those of Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela. They stressed the need to preserve democracy in Bolivia. Domestically, former President Morales and even conservative former President Jeanine Anez, who remains in prison, condemned the coup. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also expressed deep concern, urging all actors to protect the constitutional order and maintain peace. The coup attempt represents a flagrant violation of democratic principles. In a democratic society, changes in government leadership and policy must be achieved through lawful and peaceful means, such as elections and legislative processes, and not through military force. General Zuniga’s actions undermine the rule of law and set a dangerous precedent that could encourage similar attempts in the future, further destabilizing the country. Such attempts to seize power by force have led to chaos and destruction. The attack in La Paz has dealt a devastating blow to citizens’ sense of stability and security. It disrupts governance, instills fear among citizens, and can result in human and material losses. The five-hour standoff has created a climate of fear and uncertainty, which can have lasting repercussions on trust and societal cohesion. The involvement of senior military officials such as General Zuniga in an attempted coup seriously undermines the integrity and reputation of the armed forces. The primary role of the military is to protect the nation and its democratic institutions, not to undermine them. Such actions could lead to a loss of public confidence in the military, which could harm its credibility and effectiveness in the long term. The attempted coup worsens an already dire economic situation. Political instability can discourage investment, disrupt economic activity, and deepen financial crises. The attempted coup, combined with existing economic difficulties, could plunge the country into deeper economic turmoil, making recovery even more difficult.

The international condemnation Bolivia is facing could potentially lead to international isolation, with countries likely to impose sanctions or reduce diplomatic and economic ties. Bolivia must prevent this from happening, as it could further harm its economy as well as its international reputation, making it more difficult for the country to receive aid, investment, and support from the international community. The coup attempt highlights and exacerbates deep political divisions within Bolivia. The strained relationship between President Arce and General Zuniga, as well as the broader tensions between Arce and former President Evo Morales, reflect a fractured political landscape. This division is not just a matter of personal animosity, but represents a broader ideological and factional struggle within the country, which could lead to further unrest and hamper effective governance if relations are not repaired. The recent coup attempt in Bolivia underscores the urgent need for systemic changes to prevent similar events from happening in the future. One such strategy is to strengthen democratic institutions by ensuring that the judiciary operates independently of political influence, implementing reforms to ensure free and fair elections, and strengthening legislative checks and balances. Strong democratic institutions can serve as a buffer against power grabs by ensuring that transitions of authority occur legally and peacefully. This can prevent the military from exploiting weaknesses in the system to stage coups. Promoting economic stability is another area in Bolivia that needs to be addressed immediately. Diversifying the economy to reduce reliance on a few key exports by investing in a variety of sectors would be beneficial, as would working with international organizations to secure economic assistance and negotiating favorable trade agreements to stimulate the economy. Economic stability reduces public discontent and the likelihood of unrest that can be exploited by those seeking to destabilize the government. A robust economy can also provide the resources for strong governance and social programs. Improving civil-military relations would be very beneficial for Bolivia, as a military that respects and adheres to its role in a democratic framework is less likely to engage in coups. Bolivia has several ways to strengthen its civil-military relations, including establishing a clear chain of command, implementing training programs that emphasize the military’s role in protecting democracy, and establishing mechanisms to hold military personnel accountable for misconduct. Bolivia is a country like many others that experiences political polarization, and addressing this issue is essential. This problem can be addressed by facilitating dialogue between political factions to find common ground, perhaps through coalition governments or power-sharing agreements that ensure all major political groups have a voice in governance. These strategies could help reduce political polarization and mitigate Bolivia’s conflict environment.