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Bolivia: General who led failed coup gets pretrial detention

June 29, 2024

Former army chief, Juan Jose Zuniga, will be held in preventive detention for six months. He has been charged with a terrorism offense following a failed attempt to unseat the country's president in a coup.

Bolivian police hold the detained Juan Jose Zuniga, former general commander of the Army, in La Paz
Image: Juan Karita/AP Photo/picture alliance

General Juan Jose Zuniga, who led a failed coup attempt in La Paz earlier this week, will be held in "preventive detention" for six months, a top prosecutor said Friday.

The former army general was charged with terrorism, which carries a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison, as well as a charge for an armed uprising, the Reuters news agency cited state prosecutor Cesar Siles as saying.

What do we know about Zuniga's detention?

Siles said the Attorney General's Office had requested pretrial detention for six months.

Others, including the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry, supported the request "due to the importance and seriousness of the events that occurred." 

"This preventive detention that the judge is ordering will undoubtedly set a precedent and a good signal so that this investigation can continue to advance," Siles added.

Two other Bolivian military officers will also be held in pretrial detention for six months, the French AFP news agency cited Siles as saying.

What we know about the coup attempt

Authorities in Bolivia put down a short-lived coup attempt on Wednesday that saw armored vehicles ramming the gates of the presidential palace.

Arrested general claims he was asked to stage a coup

Bolivian authorities arrested the outgoing general commander of the army, Zuniga, who mobilized troops to enter the presidential palace.

Zuniga has said he was following an order from President Luis Arce, who has denied any involvement or prior knowledge of Zuniga's operation.

Arce named a new army commander while what amounted to be an attempted coup was underway.

The new general immediately ordered the troops to stand down. The ordeal was over in about three hours. 

After the dramatic day, the government arrested at least  17 people in connection with the failed coup attempt.

Retired military personnel as well as civilians were among those arrested.

rmt/rm (AFP, Reuters)