LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivian President Luis Arce said Friday a former general planned to “take over” the government and become president in a failed coup, and he denied that the Andean nation was in an economic crisis.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the embattled leader denied once again that Wednesday’s attack on the government palace was a “self-coup” designed to garner him political points.

“I didn’t escape, I stayed to defend democracy,” Arce said.

Arce said his government has been “politically attacked” by his one-time ally turned rival Evo Morales, who has left his government hamstrung in taking on the country’s turmoil with a “legislative boycott”, part of their ongoing political spat.

Despite that, he said the country’s economy is growing, and that his government is working to “diversify” means of producing, investing in things like lithium and industrializing. Bolivia has the largest reserves of lithium – a metal known as “white gold” and considered essential in the green transition – in the world that has gone largely untapped, in part due to government policy.

He said the government “has taken action” to address intermittent gasoline and dollar shortages, and other hurdles ailing the South American nation’s economy.

“Bolivia has an economy that’s growing, an economy in crisis doesn’t grow,” he said.

Arce washed his hands of claims by family members of the 21 detained by the government who were innocent of attempting a coup, and that they were tricked by the ex-military General Juan Jose Zúñiga.

“It’s a problem of those who were involved, it’s not the government’s problem,” Arce told the AP.

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