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The case of the Bolivian Army commander accused of a thief: “I don’t understand how he can have that position”

The president of Bolivia, Luis Arce (EFE/Martin Alipaz/File)
The president of Bolivia, Luis Arce (EFE/Martin Alipaz/File)

That he army commander be branded as thief It is something that had not occurred in bolivian never, but now it has happened: the commander Juan Jose Zuniga was described in that way by the former minister of the presidency (of Evo Morales), Juan Ramon Quintana.

“Me personally, being a former Army officer, I don’t understand how someone who steals can be Commander in Chief of the Army. Someone who steals, someone who is prosecuted for theft, what happens?

Quintana says that General Zúñiga has lawsuits pending before the courts for having used and misappropriated resources from a bond created by Morales for students and from another that benefits the elderly.

“Are we naturalizing robbery in the armed forces and the next petty thieves are going to be generals?” said Quintana, who was an army officer, trained at the “School of the Americas” in USA during the cold war and is now retired.

The fact has not been answered neither by the aforementioned nor by the person who put him in the position of commander, the president Luis Arce Catacorawhen the political tension within the movement to socialism (MAS) has become uncontrollable and includes accusations of being part of drug trafficking that cross between the opposing sides.

Another ex-minister of Morales, carlos romeroensures that the Arce government protects drug trafficking, although it also says that the assaults on private and fiscal lands, encouraged by the former president, are also connected to drug interests.

Evo Morales speaks in Cochabamba (EFE/Jorge Ábrego)
Evo Morales speaks in Cochabamba (EFE/Jorge Ábrego)

Zúñiga had the audacity to say that Morales “screws up” on political issues because he is badly advised, alluding to the former president’s repeated public complaints about the alleged connections of the current commanders with what he calls the “coup” that threw him out. from power in November 2019, although in reality it was a formidable popular revolt.

In those days, the former army officer Quintana took refuge in the Mexican embassy because he was sure that a revolution had broken out in Bolivia, as Morales and his vice president also thought, who fled in terror in a military plane sent by López Obrador.

Morales assures that all the members of the military High Command appointed by Arce last November were involved in that “coup”, as well as other active duty generals who are imprisoned, awaiting trial.

Both Arce and Morales have made changes to the commanders of the Armed Forces without respecting military regulations, thinking only of rewarding the bosses who are loyal to them.

The procedure is so irregular that the military revealed on social networks that General Zúñiga graduated from the military school with very poor grades and was number 48 in his class.

The management of interim president Jeanine Añez tried to reduce Cuban influence in the barracks, but Arce reinstated the motto
The management of interim president Jeanine Añez tried to reduce Cuban influence in the barracks, but Arce reinstated the motto “homeland or death” instead of “long live free Bolivia” (REUTERS / David Mercado)

The organic law of the armed forces states that the position of commander can only be held by someone who has obtained first place in the qualifications of the military school and has had an exemplary service record.

Morales has ordered that the military college receive preferentially the children of Chapare cocaleros since 2006, when he became president and now some of them are reaching the rank of colonel and will soon control the main military posts, according to retirees.

The Cuban influence made the greeting of the troops in the barracks change the motto of “Long live free Bolivia” to “patria o muerte”, something that was eliminated during the transitional government of Jeanine Áñezin 2020, but Arce imposed it again in 2021.

Now, Arce has asked in his harangues that the military help him fight the business leaders of Santa Cruz, whom he accuses of being white and having “foreign surnames.”

But in the internal fight of the MASNow the target is General Zúñiga, who boasts of not having been a good student and in return says he is proud of being loyal to the Arce government.

The Bolivian military changed its preferences many times during the cold war and became leftist after defeating Che Guevara in 1967.

But it is the first time that they are tempted and even subdued by coca growers and drug traffickers.

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