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Prosecutors seek six months' pre-trial detention for former Bolivian president

Bolivia’s former interim president Jeanine Anez was detained yesterday.

Jeanine Anez
Jeanine Anez
Image: PA

BOLIVIAN PROSECUTORS ARE seeking six months of pre-trial detention for former interim president Jeanine Anez as opposition groups called for protests against her arrest on charges widely denounced as political score-settling.

In the indictment, seen by AFP, prosecutors asked for the extended provisional imprisonment of Anez, 53, and two ministers in her year-long caretaker government as a “precautionary” measure.

The trio were apprehended yesterday on terrorism, sedition and conspiracy charges linked to the 2019 ousting of Anez’s predecessor Evo Morales in what he claims was a coup d’etat.

As the most senior parliamentarian left after Morales and his allies fled the country following widespread unrest over disputed elections in November 2019, conservative Anez took over as caretaker president.

Her arrest came months after Morales returned to Bolivia from exile on the back of a fresh election victory in October 2020 for the leftist Movement for Socialism (MAS) party he founded.

The presidency and congress are now under the control of MAS.

Anez has claimed political persecution as the UN and European Union called for due process to be respected.

Opposition leaders in Bolivia, too, decried the arrests, and civic and human rights groups called for protests in several cities and towns for Monday.

Carlos Mesa, a centrist former Bolivian president, took to Twitter to describe Anez’s detention as “arbitrary, illegal, and a violation of her human rights.”

It also demonstrates, he said, a willingness on the part of the MAS to “violate the laws and the rule of law to persecute and violently subdue Bolivians who believe in democracy and freedoms.”

Morales, in a tweet yesterday, showed support for the arrests and demanded punishment for the “authors and accomplices” of what he described as a coup against him.

Anez and others deny there was any coup, saying the popular uprising that led to Morales’ ouster was the result of anger about election fraud.

Following news of the arrests, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed “the importance of upholding due process guarantees and full transparency in all legal proceedings.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a tweet called for a resolution “within the framework of transparent justice and without political pressure.”

From a police barracks in La Paz, Anez sent letters to the EU and Organization of American States asking them to send observer missions to Bolivia.

Anez, a former senator, took over as caretaker president after Morales lost the support of the armed forces amid violent protests against his re-election to an unconstitutional fourth term.

Several Morales allies who held senior posts fled with him, leaving Anez as the most senior Senate official still standing.

Morales was himself the target of sedition and terrorism charges in an investigation opened shortly after Anez took power.

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But he returned from exile last November after his MAS romped to victory in an October 2020 general election that saw the party’s Luis Arce win the presidency.

Morales has since taken over the leadership of the party.

Also arrested on Saturday were Anez’s former energy minister Rodrigo Guzman and his justice counterpart Alvaro Coimbra.

Last month, congress voted to give amnesty to those prosecuted during Anez’s presidency for acts of violence during the chaos that followed Morales’ resignation.

MAS party member Lidia Patty filed a complaint against Anez last December, claiming she, several of her former ministers, ex-military and police members, and others had promoted the overthrow of Morales, who had been in power for 14 years.

Anez, a former lawyer, is a longtime critic of leftist Morales, who has branded her “a coup-mongering right-wing senator.”

He has said that Anez “declared herself… interim president without a legislative quorum, surrounded by a group of accomplices.”

Justice Minister Ivan Lima insisted Saturday that the system was independent from government.

“We cannot interfere in cases brought by the prosecutor and by justice. These cases must be pursued within the framework of objectivity and independence,” said Lima.

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