Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivian President Luis Arce said Friday a former general planned to “take over” the government and become president in a failed coup, and he denied that the Andean nation was in an economic crisis.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the embattled leader denied once again that Wednesday’s attack on the government palace was a “self-coup” designed to garner him political points.

“I didn’t escape. I stayed to defend democracy,” Arce said.

Arce washed his hands of claims by relatives of the 21 people detained by the government that they were innocent of attempting a coup and had been tricked by ex-Gen. Juan Jose Zúñiga.

“It’s a problem of those who were involved, it’s not the government’s problem,” Arce told AP.

Arce said also his government has been “politically attacked” by his one-time ally turned rival, former President Evo Morales, saying the infighting has snarled legislative activities and hamstrung his government confronting economic problems.

Despite that, he said, Bolivia’s economy is growing and his administration is working to “diversify” means of producing, investing in things like lithium and industrializing. Bolivia has the largest reserves of lithium — a metal known as “white gold” and considered essential in the green transition — in the world that has gone largely untapped, in part due to government policy.

Arce said the government “has taken action” to address intermittent gasoline and dollar shortages and other hurdles ailing the South American nation’s economy.

“Bolivia has an economy that’s growing. An economy in crisis doesn’t grow,” he said.

He said it was “completely normal” for Bolivians to run to stockpile food in supermarkets and make a run on ATMs upon seeing an emerging coup in the capital, instead of following his call to take to the streets in support of the government.

He said Bolivians were traumatized by the political turmoil in 2019 that led Morales to resign as president and flee and also caused 37 deaths.

“Where there is a political situation, this rupture, a coup d’état, of course people will be scared that there won’t be food … so they’ll go get money to go stock up,” Arce said.

He added that the government was investigating if the attack was organized by the country’s political opposition. That same day, Arce’s governmental minister, Eduardo del Castillo, said the government claimed that there were “snipers who did not arrive in time to the Murillo square” where the coup was staged.


Associated Press reporter Paola Flores in La Paz contributed to this report.

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