An international investigation of the alleged coup d’etat in Bolivia is urgently needed

Carlos Sánchez Berzaín

By: Carlos Sánchez Berzaín - 05/07/2024

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This past 26th of June, the world was startled with the announcement of a “coup d’état” in Bolivia that lasted a few hours and ended with the alleged coup leader declaring that he had “complied with the request of President Luis Arce.” Arce’s government is controlled by 21st Century Socialism, has over 300 political prisoners, is undergoing an economic, social, and political crisis, has been identified as a narco-State and lacking all essential components of democracy was able to get the international press and governments from throughout the world “to defend Bolivian democracy” and support its President. This staging, already repudiated by the Bolivian people, urges an independent international investigation.

A coup d’état is “the illegal, overt, and forcible unseating of a government, takeover of power and the powers of a State.” The purpose is “the objective, attempt, or plan” to do something, in this particular case the perpetration of coup d’état. Legally, such an attempt is addressed in article eight of Bolivia’s penal code as “whomsoever, through suitable and unequivocable acts, starts the execution of the crime and does not consummate it due to causes beyond his control ...” For there to be a coup, or attempted coup, the destitution of the government must be sought, something that was not heard at all.

General Juan Jose Zuñiga Macias, Commanding General of the Army from the Plurinational State of Bolivia, appointed to his position by President Luis Arce Catacora, declared this past Monday that if Evo Morales insisted to be a candidate in the presidential elections of 2025, he would arrest him, something that publicly aligned him in support of Arce in his dispute with Morales, violating the principles of the Armed Forces for its active duty members and their Chain of Command not to be involved in politics.

The referential framework in which all of this is happening is that there is a great and growing economic crisis in Bolivia: U.S. Dollars, much sought and used by the people have virtually disappeared and now they pay up to over 30% and climbing of the official exchange rate in the black market, there is no supply of either gasoline or diesel, the international reserves are almost inexistent, the government is tapping and misappropriating private retirement funds that are the private property of Bolivians, there are no private foreign investments, all natural resources such as lithium, uranium, gold, and others have been surrendered and delivered to Russia, China, and Iran, the price of a basic family basket is going up, and no one knows precisely the total amount of Bolivia’s foreign and internal debt that possibly surpasses Bolivia’s Gross Domestic Product (PIB in Spanish).

There is a social crisis caused by; the diminishing income, racial, regional, and generational confrontation promoted by the regime, the disputes for governmental positions because now the State is the main employer. This social crisis is also fueled by complaints from sectors such as workers and transportation unions, civic organizations, who mobilize and produce work stoppages and road blockades, due to the government’s incapacity to meet their demands and more.

Politically, beyond the existence of political prisoners and exiles, the total concentration of power, the inexistence of the rule of law, there is the on-going, ever increasing, and much publicized confrontation between Luis Arce and Evo Morales as to who -amongst the two- will be the candidate for the presidential elections of 2025. Under the façade of several pretexts, Morales and Arce have been summoned several times and have met in Havana and Caracas to reconcile and cease the on-going conflict without apparent results. The confrontation has not prevented Arce to guarantee Evo Morales’ impunity. Morales is accused of pedophilia, narcotics’ trafficking, corruption, bloody massacres, counterfeiting, and more.

As listed in the Interdisciplinary Development Consultancy (CID in Spanish) Gallup Poll, support for Luis Arce’s administration is identified as the third lowest in the region. Surveys conducted in May of 2024 give an 18% approval rate to Arce. The meeting of the 54th General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Paraguay, rendered a scenario of immediate resonance to any extraordinary event, such as a “coup d’etat.”

General Zuñiga along with military equipment and several armored vehicles arrive at the door of the Government’s Palace and asked -amongst other confusing requests- for “the change of the Cabinet and the freedom of political prisoners,” but never requests either a change of government, the removal of the President, or his intention of a government takeover. Arce is seen at the door of the Government’s Palace supposedly confronting the General without there being any act of pressure, or force, ordering him to leave, something that eventually happened. When Zuñiga is detained, he declared that he had done all of this at the request of President Arce. The entire event took place over a span of less than six (6) hours.

The consequences of this embarrassing situation are serious because they generated the immediate international coverage as a “Coup d’état” to acts that are no more than a farce but that were able to garner solidarity and support to “Bolivian democracy and President Arce” from democratic institutions and governments. Since there are no elements of a coup d’état, or even an attempt to conduct such coup, if this is a fraud, as the whole thing seems to indicate, it is “State-terrorism” meaning “the perpetration of crimes from within the government in order to instill fear in the population and generate behaviors that would otherwise not occur.”

Facts compel democratic institutions and governments to conduct an international investigation of such facts because the system in Bolivia does not provide any guarantee that a true, real, objective, and suitable investigation can be done. The OAS is still meeting in Paraguay and should actively take up a matter that affects its credibility.

*Attorney & Political Scientist. Director of the Interamerican Institute for Democracy.

Translation from Spanish by Edgar L. Terrazas

Published in Spanish by Thursday June 27, 2024

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