Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Monday (15) in several towns in Bolivia to protest the arrest of former interim president Jeanine Añez, detained last Saturday (13).
According to a Bolivian court ruling, Añez is expected to spend the next four months in pre-trial detention for conspiracy, sedition and terrorism within days of Evo Morales’ resignation in November 2019.
“It was not a coup d’etat, it was a fraud,” said posters of protesters in cities such as La Paz, Cochabamba, Sucre, Trinidad and Santa Cruz de La Sierra. The slogans echoed Añez’s own reaction to her arrest, that she was held criminally responsible for a “coup that never happened”.
In Santa Cruz de La Sierra, the economic capital of Bolivia and stronghold of the opposing right, around 40,000 people gathered in Plaza Cristo Redentor, according to estimates by local authorities.
“These prisoners, these persecuted politicians, we will not abandon them,” promised the ultra-right Luis Fernando Camacho, referring to Añez and two of his former ministers. “We will be firm because it will be a strong fight.”
Camacho was an ally of the former interim president in the maneuver that led to Evo’s resignation, and is also under a conspiracy investigation, but the Bolivian prosecution has not called for his arrest.
Unlike Añez, he ran in the October presidential elections and came third, with 14% of the vote, while the former interim leader withdrew his candidacy, calling for unity against the Socialists.
Last week, Camacho obtained over 55% of the vote in the regional elections and was elected governor of Santa Cruz, while Añez had a poor performance in the elections in the department of Beni, taking third place.
The parties of Añez (Unidad Nacional) and Camacho (Creemos) joined other legends of the center and right-wing opposition in accusations against the Bolivian justice, which they said was subordinate to the government of Luis Arce , ally of Evo. who now presides over the country after a landslide victory at the polls.
Five former ministers of the interim government of Añez – Arturo Murillo (government), Luis Fernando López (defense), Yerko Núñez (presidency), Álvaro Coimbra (justice) and Rodrígo Guzmán (energy) – have received arrest warrants. Of these, Coimbra and Guzmán have already been arrested, but the goal of opponents is to prevent the arrests from continuing.
There are also former soldiers, former police chiefs and other civilians in the crosshairs of the prosecution. All are the target of a denunciation presented by a block of deputies and former deputies of the Movement for Socialism (MAS), party of Evo and Arce. In the process, the prosecution accuses the high government of Añez of having caused more than 30 deaths in the repression of demonstrations after the departure of the indigenous leader.
The charges of “sedition, conspiracy and terrorism” refer to the way Añez acted during his period of transition to power – between November 12, 2019, two days after Evo’s resignation, and November 8, 2020, date which Arce took over after winning the election. held in October.
In response to the demonstrations on Monday, the current Minister of Justice, Iván Lima, declared that “the coup must be resolved in justice and not in the streets”.
“What we are looking for is not a four-month detention. What we are looking for is a 30-year sentence, because there have been bloody massacres here, ”said Lima, referring to the pre-trial detention ordered against Añez and the violent incidents recorded during the transitional government.
The arrest of the conservative leader, who hid in a box-bed when police entered her home in Trinidad, drew criticism from the Organization of American States (OAS). According to the organization, Bolivian legal channels are being abused for political ends.
“They have become repressive instruments of the ruling party [o MAS]. The Bolivian judicial system is not able to provide the minimum guarantees of a fair trial, impartiality and due process, ”OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said in a message on Twitter.
In response, Evo criticized Almagro for failing to respond to “36 murders, 800 injured, 1,500 illegally detained and hundreds persecuted”.
“We are not surprised by his defense of Añez, because he [Almagro] he should also be tried for promoting the coup and for crimes against humanity in Bolivia, ”wrote the former president.
In 2019, the OAS was formally charged with overseeing the presidential election. After Evo’s victory, the corps reported fraud in the electoral process, reinforcing the arguments of the opposing right. The OAS is now calling for the release of Añez and his ministers and an independent international investigation.
For Amnesty International, the arrest of the former interim president, as well as the decision to dismiss any pending prosecution against members of the MAS, represents the continuation of a decades-long “crisis of impunity” in Bolivia. .
Two days after Evo resigned, Añez came to power in a controversial legislative move, taking advantage of a loophole in Bolivian law, as everyone in the direct line of succession resigned after Evo left.
Without having reached a quorum in either the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate, she justified that she would assume the presidency in accordance with the provisions of the statutes of the Senate on succession to the Chamber.
According to the regulations, taking into account the resignation of the president and the first vice-president of the Senate, the statutes allowed him, the second vice-president, to assume the command.
During his 11-month tenure, Añez faced stiff opposition from Evo’s party, which included acts of violence and state-suppressed roadblocks. Also during the interim government, the Bolivian justice opened proceedings against Evo, who accused him of terrorism for having stimulated violent demonstrations. An arrest warrant was issued against him, but the former president fled abroad.
The arrest warrant was quashed in October. In an interview with Folha, former vice-president Álvaro García Linera, who advises Arce “informally”, said the charges against Añez and against Evo are “completely different”.
“To assimilate them is to try to diminish Bolivian justice. The charges against Morales have never been proven and they were supposed to be ‘terrorism’, because he would have incited rebellions from abroad. never been proven. Against Añez, the process is different “Linera.