Bolivia’s former interim president arrested over 2019 ‘coup’

Bolivia’s former interim president arrested over 2019 ‘coup’
Bolivia’s former interim president Jeanine Anez, centre, who has been detained, is escorted by Bolivian Police Commander Jhonny Aguilera (Juan Karita/AP)

The conservative interim president who led Bolivia for a year was arrested as officials of the restored leftist government pursue those involved in the 2019 ousting of socialist leader Evo Morales, which they regard as a coup, and the administration that followed.

Jeanine Anez was detained in the early morning in her hometown of Trinidad and was flown to the capital, La Paz.

She had earlier warned that officials were searching her, terming it “abuse and persecution” in Twitter posts.

The arrest of Ms Anez and warrants against numerous other former officials further worsened political tensions in a South American country already torn by a cascade of perceived wrongs suffered by both sides.

Those include complaints that Mr Morales had grown more authoritarian with nearly 13 years in office; that he illegally ran for a fourth reelection and then allegedly rigged the outcome, that right-wing forces led violent protests that prompted security forces to push him into resigning and then cracked down on his followers, who themselves protested the alleged coup.

Dozens of people were killed in a series of demonstrations against and then for Mr Morales.

Jeanine Anez, centre, is escorted by Government Minister Carlos Eduardo Del Castillo, right, and Bolivian Police Commander Jhonny Aguilera (Juan Karita/AP)

“This is not justice,” said former president Carlos Mesa, who has since lost several elections to Mr Morales.

“They are seeking to decapitate an opposition by creating a false narrative of a coup to distract from a fraud.”

Other arrest warrants were issued for more than a dozen other former officials.

Those include several ex-cabinet ministers, as well as former military leader William Kaliman and the police chief who had urged Morales to resign in November 2019 after the country was swept by protests against the country’s first Indigenous president.

After Mr Morales resigned, or was pushed, and flew abroad, many of his key supporters also resigned.

A billboard of Bolivia’s former president Evo Morales (Juan Karita/AP)

Ms Anez, a legislator who had been several rungs down the ladder of presidential succession, was vaulted into the interim presidency.

Once there, she abruptly wrenched Bolivia’s policies to the right and her administration tried to prosecute Mr Morales and an array of his supporters on terrorism and sedition charges, alleging election rigging and oppression of protests.

But Morales Movement Toward Socialism remained popular.

It won last year’s elections with 55% of the vote under Mr Morales’ chosen candidate Luis Arce, who took the presidency in November.

Ms Anez had dropped out after plunging in the polls.

Two ministers in Ms Anez’s government were also arrested on Friday, including former justice minister Alvaro Coimbra, who had helped lead the prosecution of Mr Morales’ aides.

A former defence minister and others also have been accused.

New justice minister Ivan Lima said that Ms Anez, 53, faces charges related to her actions as an opposition senators, not as former president.

The country’s interior minister Eduardo del Castillo denied it was an act of persecution, saying the case arose from a criminal complaint of conspiracy and sedition filed against her in November, the month she left office.

The Americas director of Human Rights Watch, Jose Miguel Vivanco, said from Washington that the arrest warrants against Ms Anez and her ministers “contain no evidence whatsoever that they have committed the crime of terrorism”.

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