Bolivian police have arrested the leader of an attempted coup, hours after the presidential palace in the capital, La Paz, was stormed by soldiers.
Armoured vehicles and troops had taken up positions on Murillo Square, where key government buildings are located. They all later withdrew.
The rebel military leader in charge, Gen. Juan José Zúñiga, had said he wanted to “restructure democracy” and that while he respected President Luis Arce for now, there would be a change of government. He is now under arrest.
President Arce condemned the coup attempt, calling on the public to “organize and mobilize… in favour of democracy.”.
His words clearly resonated, with pro-democracy demonstrators taking to the streets in support of the government.
Mr. Arce also announced he was appointing new military commanders, confirming reports that Gen. Zúñiga had been dismissed after openly criticizing Bolivia’s former leader, Evo Morales.
Mr. Morales also condemned the coup attempt and called for criminal charges to be brought against Gen. Zúñiga and his “accomplices.”
The public prosecutor’s office has opened a criminal investigation.
It is increasingly clear that this was a short-lived and ill-judged military uprising rather than any wider unravelling of power.
Nevertheless, the coming weeks will be key in establishing whether Gen. Zuñiga’s military insurrection was just an isolated incident.
Certainly, the government now looks more vulnerable, and others may try to dislodge Mr. Arce’s administration – albeit through politics rather than via the military.
Furthermore, he could count on the support of Evo Morales, the influential former president and the elder statesman of Bolivia’s left.
Mr. Morales called on his supporters, particularly in the country’s indigenous coca-growers movement, to take to the streets to demand an end to the attempted coup.
That display of popular power may well have helped strengthen the resolve against Gen. Zuñiga’s plans, which also included freeing “political prisoners,” including former leader Jeanine Áñez.
He was sacked after appearing on television on Monday, saying he would arrest Mr. Morales if he ran for office again next year, despite the former president being barred from doing so.
Close allies, like the left-wing governments in Venezuela and Colombia, were quick to condemn what was happening and call for democracy to prevail. Washington also called for calm.
Even those Bolivians who opposed his socialist rule will not want to see a return to a dark time in South America where militaries with terrible human rights records often pushed out the country’s democratically elected leaders at the barrel of a gun.

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