Bolivian President Luis Arce today strongly rejected the narrative of a “self-coup” being promoted by opposition sectors following Wednesday’s military takeover of Plaza Murillo and forced entry into the old government palace.

Speaking at a press conference, Arce insisted that he would not seek popularity through violence and recalled the struggle of the Bolivian people to regain democracy.

“I am not a politician who wants to gain popularity with the blood of the people. On the contrary, we have come to defend the Bolivian people, who gave their blood to recover democracy,” Arce said in response to accusations of a “self-coup” during his speech at the Casa Grande del Pueblo, the government headquarters next to the old government palace.

Arce stressed that he strongly rejects the version of a “self-coup” being promoted by the alleged leaders of the attempted military uprising, who have already been arrested.

“It cannot be an order or a plan for a self-coup. At that moment he could have told me: you ordered me to do this, he could have told me. Or he could have given a counter-order, but he did not follow my orders because he acted on his own, that must be clear,” said Arce, referring to the dismissed general Juan José Zúñiga.

The former army commander, who has already been arrested by the police, said on Wednesday that President Arce had asked him for measures to “increase his popularity”, which led to the mobilisation of the tanks in the square.

In response to these statements, Arce argued that the dismissed commander had acted independently and without direct orders, breaking the chain of command in the armed forces and obstructing military intelligence.

He also hinted at the possible influence of external interests in the attempted coup, similar to the lithium-related events of November 2019.

“All the coups in the country have had the economic issue as a premise. The most recent of them, the one in 2019, was the issue of lithium,” he said.

The number of arrests over the failed coup has risen to 17, and authorities have announced more than 15 outstanding arrest warrants.

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