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Tension in Bolivia as President Arce revamps military leadership

Supporters of President Luis Arce of Bolivia rallied yesterday after a week of tension in which the head of state took oath to a new military leadership and denounced threats of a coup d’etat similar to the one the government suffered in 2019.

The changes came as the dissident Santa Cruz de la Sierra region saw its third consecutive week of protests demanding the launch of a national census in 2023, in order to update the region’s share of congressional representatives and oil and gas revenues, which the national government has postponed to 2024.

Santa Cruz was the heart of a 2008 uprising demanding greater autonomy for the country’s eastern region. The resulting movement in deaths and disappearances. The region is also home to the most active protesters in the buildup to the 2019 coup against Evo Morales, including current Governor Luis Fernando Camacho, a right-winger sometimes linked to Bolivian fascism.

“Once again, Bolivia is under threat from those who are incapable of contributing to the democratic process and focus on confrontation and violence between Bolivians,” Mr. Arce said during the ceremony, where Hugo Eduardo Arandia López was confirmed as his new military chief and other four key officials also took new positions.

“To make it absolutely clear, the behavior of the Armed Forces as a fundamental and permanent institution of the state will be based on constitutional obedience to the law and the directives of our commander in chief,” Mr. Arandia López added.

The military and the police played a decisive role in the 2019 ousting of Mr. Morales, an ally of President Arce, after calling for him to step down and refusing to protect him from protesters led by Mr. Camacho, who were ready to storm the government palace.

The ousting of Morales, who was trying an extremely controversial third re-election attempt at the time but ended up exiled in Mexico and Argentina, was followed by the takeover of Jeanine Añez as Bolivian president. Ms. Añez is currently serving jail time in Bolivia for her role in those events, while other key coup officials have also recently been sentenced abroad for corruption.

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