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LATIN AMERICA | 04-07-2024 16:12

Bolivia’s Luis Arce denies ‘staged’ coup claims in interview

Luis Arce fiercely rejects claims by Argentina’s President and his ally-turned-rival Evo Morales that he staged last week’s coup attempt. Conflict-prone Milei’s remarks do not help relations, says Bolivian president in new interview.

In the days since the military besieged the presidential palace in La Paz, Bolivian president Luis Arce confesses he has not slept well.

Among his concerns – in addition to a failed coup attempt and ongoing economic crisis – is the criticism coming from Arce’s former ally-turned-rival, former president Evo Morales, and Argentina’s leader Javier Milei. 

The unlikely duo have suddenly emerged as staunch antagonists of the Bolivian leader, albeit united briefly by the suspicion that they had fabricated a “self-coup.”

After receiving nearly unanimous support, including from key leaders from the international community, in a new interview Arce seeks to clear up the doubts raised by general Juan José Zúñiga, former Army commander who was captured on June 26. 

Singled out as the man commanding the military uprising, Zúñiga later claimed that it was Arce himself who asked him to prepare something to increase his popularity – a claim which the president has denied several times.

However, Zúñiga’s words found an echo in Morales, who is vying against Arce for the nomination of the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) as candidate for the 2025 presidential election. 

Milei went after the Arce, branding the failed coup as “fradulent” – an intervention that prompted La Paz to recall its ambassador in Buenos Aires.

Relaxed, dressed in jeans and a shirt without a tie, President Arce welcomed AFP in La Paz. Here are extracts from the interview.
 

The President of Argentina says that in Bolivia there was no failed coup. In addition to recalling your ambassador in Buenos Aires, are you considering other measures? 

Well, it’s no wonder [with] these statements by Mr Milei. He has conflicts with Spain, he has conflicts with Brazil, he has conflicts with Paraguay, and he has had spats with Chile … Actually, I don’t think it helps the neighbourhood … the unrest he has shown, regrettably.

Now, what we find the strangest thing is Milei meeting minds with Evo Morales ... I believe Evo still has time to decide which side of history he wants to be on, let him define himself, because clearly any position defending Mr Milei is not a left-wing position.
 

Will there be a possible outreach to Morales in the run-up to the 2025 election, or will he seek re-election?

I don’t know where my candidacy came from, but we all know he wants to be a candidate ... The coup ought to have made me reflect rather than taking a distinctly electoral position and losing the ideological and political principles of a left-winger. 

Unfortunately, Evo Morales fancies himself the owner of the political instrument [the MAS party],  but it is social organisations which are the true and lawful owners of the political instrument.
 

There is a complicated economic situation due to the shortage of fuel and dollars. Will a single term be enough to redirect the economy? 

We have already been taking measures to solve this economic issue ... despite the boycott by the right and Evo Morales at the [Legislative] Assembly ... On the topic of diesel and petrol, supply has slowly gone back to normal.

As for dollars, precisely on the day of the coup, the Central Bank was reporting an important measure … and only today are we able to disseminate to the different media outlets the use of cryptocurrencies in this country ... Nobody wishes to use the dollar, but here they ask for the dollar, when in other countries they’re getting rid of dollars.

Little by little we take out measures which solve this issue of shortage of payment methods … it can be solved.

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