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A military coup attempt is underway in Bolivia, with troops and tanks on the streets

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A military coup attempt is underway in the South American country of Bolivia.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIREN BLARING)

CHANG: Armored vehicles have taken to the streets of the capital, La Paz, surrounding the governmental palace and repelling demonstrators with tear gas. We're joined now by NPR's Carrie Kahn for the latest. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Hi.

CHANG: OK, so I know this is a very fast-moving story. What do we know at this point?

KAHN: Over the past several hours, troops have taken over the streets around the governmental palace in La Paz. That's what we were hearing. The head of the armed forces spoke briefly - it was a very chaotic situation - seen right in front of the palace and rambled on about preserving democracy, saving the children's future for Bolivia. He said all political prisoners would be released. And then at one point, an armored vehicle began ramming the front door of the palace. That was pretty dramatic.

The head of the military and the president, Luis Arce, had a tense standoff then that was broadcast live on TV, and Arce told the commander that he was the leader of the armed forces and to remove all troops immediately. Arce then swore in a new general commander of the military and condemned vehemently the actions of what he said were bad soldiers. Here's some of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT LUIS ARCE: (Non-English language spoken).

KAHN: Arce says, the only thing they're doing now is staining the democratic image of Bolivia to the world and causing turmoil and uncertainty in the country at a time when we all need to work together to move our country forward.

CHANG: And Carrie, can you just update us on the broader situation in Bolivia recently? Like, was there any indication that a coup or the kind of military action that we've seen today - that that could possibly happen?

KAHN: There has been a lot of turmoil in the country. There have been a lot of protests over the deteriorating economic situation. There's been a drastic shortage of dollars in the country. Bolivia had been one of South America's fastest-growing economies. And as its lucrative gas reserves have declined, it's been dealing with multiple crises.

There's also a big rift at the top of the ruling party. Arce, the president now, and the former leftist president, Evo Morales, have been fighting for the party's leadership, and that's ahead of upcoming elections next year. But it appears that this attempted coup could be over as fast as it all happened. It looks like the military vehicles and troops are leaving from that chaotic scene there in downtown La Paz.

CHANG: Wow. That is NPR's Carrie Kahn. Thank you so much, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF AKON SONG, "CRACK ROCK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.