Áñez detained on terrorism charges (March 15, 2021)
Former Bolivian interim-president Jeanine Áñez was detained on Saturday and ccused of sedition, terrorism and conspiracy, along with other former cabinet members. Ánez on Sunday appeared via videolink for a first hearing before a judge over accusations she helped foment a coup against the country’s socialist government.
Public prosecutor Harold Jarandilla said the defendants used security force allies to push then-President Evo Morales to resign after contested elections and “rigged” events in the political vacuum that followed to install her as interim president, reports Reuters. Justice minister Ivan Lima said that Áñez faces charges related to her actions as an opposition senator, not as former president.
Áñez and former ministers were suddenly added on Friday to a case against police and military leaders who called for Morales' 2019 resignation, reports El País. The arrest was dramatic, as Áñez was not in her home, which was surrounded by police and media on Friday, but was later found hidden in a box in a nearby residence. She was deemed a flight risk by the judge, who called for her and her ministers to be held on remand pending trial for six months.
Áñez said it is a case of political persecution, and asked the OAS and the European Union to send observer missions to follow the case. Human Rights Watch's José Miguel Vivanco tweeted Friday that the detention orders “contain no evidence whatsoever that they have committed the crime of terrorism."
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 arrest of Áñez and warrants against numerous other former officials further worsened political tensions in Bolivia, which was already torn by perceived wrongs suffered by both sides, reports the Associated Press. Both Morales and Añez used the judiciary to go after their critics. Current President Luis Arce, during his campaign, had promised to turn a new page in Bolivian politics, notes the New York Times.
Some experts hazard that the move is an attempt by Arce's government to show force at a time when it faces multiple political threats.
Bolivia's ruling party obtained mixed results in recent regional elections: Mayors and governors races were split between the MAS and opposition parties, but Arce remains popular for taking decisive action upon entering office during the pandemic, reports NACLA. Five months after a decisive victory in the presidential election, the MAS results roughly parallel those of the previous regional elections in 2015, when they won six governorships. In the mayoral races, where the MAS was expected to fare poorly because its most loyal political base is rural, they only won in two smaller departmental capitals. A potpourri of local parties built around a particular candidate won in the rest.
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