On the afternoon of 26 June 2024, Bolivian government officials denounced an alleged coup attempt led by the commander of the Bolivian Armed Forces, Gen. Juan José Zúñiga, after military personnel forcibly entered the Government Palace and Bolivian Legislative Assembly buildings located in Plaza Murillo in central La Paz. Security personnel also deployed tear gas against groups of civilians who attempted to enter Plaza Murillo to protest the military’s alleged attempt to oust the government, resulting in eight injuries. During the military’s occupation of Plaza Murillo, Gen. Zúñiga maintained that their objective was to demand the resignation of the minister of defense and several other Cabinet members, as well as the release of “political prisoners,” including Luis Fernando Camacho — a former governor of Santa Cruz department. Military personnel also cordoned off Ayacucho and Potosi avenues and used military vehicles to blockade Bolivar Street. Soldiers in support of Gen. Zúñiga also reportedly mobilized in army barracks located in the city of Santa Cruz, and additional military reinforcements arrived in the San Francisco area of La Paz from the city of Oruro. In response, Bolivian President Luis Arce inaugurated Gen. José Wilson Sánchez to replace Zúñiga as the new commander of the armed forces during a ceremony held at the presidential residence. Gen. Sánchez subsequently ordered all soldiers in the streets of La Paz to return to their barracks. Following the directive, all military personnel then returned to the La Paz General Barracks. President Arce then delivered a speech from the balcony of the Government Palace, declaring that the alleged attempted coup was defeated by popular support for the country’s democratic institutions.

Hours after being removed from command, Gen. Zúñiga and Admiral Arnez Salvador, his alleged co-conspirator, were arrested outside the La Paz General Barracks. In an interview with a local journalist, Gen. Zúñiga claimed that the military maneuver was ordered by President Arce to improve the public image of his government ahead of the 2025 general election; however, Arce administration officials have denounced the General’s claims as baseless. As of 27 June, Bolivia’s newly appointed military chiefs of staff claim that all military personnel have been accounted for and have returned to the barracks.

Analyst Comment: Although relative calm has returned to La Paz, political tensions remain high given recent events. Existing food and cash shortages in Bolivia were aggravated as residents in La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba rushed to secure supplies and money following the military occupation of Plaza Murillo. While there have been no reports of any disturbances at El Alto International Airport (SLLP/LPB), which serves La Paz, or any other airports in the country, there were reports of roadblocks near El Alto International Airport on 26 June. Moreover, as of the morning of 27 June, members of the Bolivian Workers’ Center (COB) have maintained a roadblock on Satélite Avenue, located in La Paz’s El Alto neighborhood, in support of President Arce. However, the roadblock has not prevented access to El Alto International Airport.