Bolivia’s President Luis Arce, a former economist, has survived a coup attempt.


Bolivian President Luis Arce, a former economy minister known for his mild-mannered demeanor and glasses, recently faced a significant challenge when the armed forces briefly occupied La Paz’s central square and breached the presidential palace in an attempted coup on Wednesday. The situation underscored Bolivia’s ongoing political tensions and the complex dynamics within the ruling Movement to Socialism (MAS) party, of which Arce and his predecessor, Evo Morales, are key figures.

Arce, aged 60, came to power in 2020 amid a backdrop of turmoil following a disputed election in 2019 that led to Morales’ resignation amidst allegations of fraud. The ensuing protests and political upheaval paved the way for a year-long interim presidency under Jeanine Anez, a conservative lawmaker, before Arce’s victory in the subsequent election.

Previously a close ally and protégé of Morales, Arce played a pivotal role as his economy minister from 2006 onwards, implementing economic policies that were credited with bolstering Bolivia’s growth during the 2000s. His tenure saw the nationalization of key sectors like oil and gas, which drew both praise for boosting state revenues and criticism from international investors.

Despite early economic successes, challenges mounted towards the end of Morales’ rule, including slowing growth and mounting opposition to his bid for a fourth presidential term. The 2019 election, marred by accusations of irregularities, plunged Bolivia into a deep political crisis, culminating in Morales’ departure and subsequent exile.

Arce’s presidency aimed to restore stability, marking Morales’ return from exile. However, his tenure has been beset by economic challenges, notably a shortage of U.S. dollars that strained the economy and led to credit downgrades by international ratings agencies.

The attempted coup in La Paz highlighted broader political fissures within Bolivia, exacerbated by Morales and Arce’s political rivalry as they prepare for the upcoming presidential election. Both leaders lead factions within the MAS party, with Morales seeking a return to power despite a court ruling barring his candidacy.

Economically, Arce’s administration has sought to navigate Bolivia’s reliance on commodities like gas and metals, while also exploring new opportunities such as lithium mining. Bolivia holds vast untapped reserves of lithium, essential for batteries in electric vehicles and electronics, prompting deals with Russian and Chinese firms. However, political gridlock in the legislature has stalled approval of these contracts, hindering economic diversification efforts.

Critics, including the military figures behind the recent coup attempt, accuse Arce’s government of mismanagement and economic deterioration. They argue that his policies have contributed to currency shortages and overall economic stagnation, contrasting sharply with the growth witnessed under Morales’ early tenure.

The political landscape remains volatile, with ongoing protests and social unrest reflecting deep-seated divisions over governance and economic priorities. Arce’s leadership faces scrutiny from both domestic opponents and international observers concerned about Bolivia’s economic trajectory and democratic stability.

The upcoming election will be pivotal in determining Bolivia’s political future. It will test Arce’s ability to address economic challenges, manage political tensions, and navigate Bolivia’s complex social landscape amid competing interests and ideologies within the MAS party.

President Luis Arce’s tenure as Bolivia’s leader has been defined by economic struggles, political rivalries, and efforts to maintain stability amidst internal strife and external pressures. His presidency marks a critical juncture in Bolivia’s democratic journey, with implications that extend beyond its borders to regional stability and global economic relations.


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