Until then, Morales had ruled Bolivia for three terms (almost 14 years) and was waiting for a fourth. Although the results would be found after an international audit, the 2019 elections could not be validated due to “serious irregularities”, it was declared the winner, provoking massive protests across the country.
But now that Morales is back, there are those who fear political revenge.
In all, the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Bolivia has issued arrest warrants against ten officials of Anez’s interim government, including the interim president herself and the two ministers who have already been arrested.
Charges are wide and scarce. According to officials, the charges facing Ánez and several of his ministers are terrorism, sedition and conspiracy to commit a coup, accusations that they have fiercely rejected, with Anez herself describing the charges as an act of “political persecution.”
After his arrest, Coimbra, the former justice minister, said in a video posted by Democratic Unity, an opposition political coalition, that there was no legal basis for his arrest.
“This has no legal validity. Do you know the reason why we are currently detained under the arrest warrant? He says we have committed the crimes of terrorism, sedition and others simply because we have accepted our positions as ministers. That’s it!” Coimbra said in an impromptu statement made behind the bars of a local cell.
Right next to him, in the same cell, was Rodrigo Guzmán, Áñez’s Minister of Energy. “This is an illegal arrest. We have been arrested on the street [the city of] Trinity. We could have been easily summoned and would have been delighted to appear in court. We didn’t run away and we won’t. We will face this process and all the political things that can throw us off. We are sure that this is just a smokescreen to hide the terrible management of the pandemic, “Guzmán said.
The government of President Arce, who won the presidential election in October, has denied that the arrests have anything to do with political vendetta.
A “pushover system”?
But national and international observers are skeptical that politics and the judiciary will not overlap in this case.
According to Bolivian political analyst Roberto Laserna, Bolivia’s justice system and security forces are unstructured to ensure complete independence and can be easily controlled by the central government. He describes it as a “pushover” system: although the 2009 constitution stipulated that judges should be elected, this has never happened; the judges have been appointed by the president in power ever since.
“Bolivian democracy is extremely fragile, weak and susceptible to the arbitrary manipulation of those who come to power at any given time. I think what has happened to Jeanine Áñez and her [former] ministers are abusive and offensive to the country to all those who believe in democracy, “Laserna told CNN.
Accusations of manipulating Bolivian justice for political purposes are nothing new in Bolivia. In 2009, then-President Evo Morales, on arriving in Venezuela, claimed that police forces had dismantled a right-wing conspiracy planning to assassinate him and his vice president, Álvaro García Linera. Three men with foreign passports were killed in a shooting at a hotel in the city of Santa Cruz.
Áñez herself faced accusations of abuse of power during her short term. Critics said the Roman Catholic who brought the Bible into government processes after Morales secularized them was a little too quick to use state security forces to quell indigenous protests across the country. But did he really plot a coup?
Laserna believes such a complaint would be an extensive stretch. Áñez was not in a position of great power at the time of the 2019 crisis, he says, adding that Morales had also positioned himself in an unsustainable position by running for another term.
“It can be said that Evo Morales felt compelled to resign. In fact, he was forced to resign. This is obvious. The people on the street forced him to resign because he had manipulated justice. He had promised not to run again. He called a referendum, which he later ignored. There were a number of acts that showed that he was someone that people could no longer trust, and I think that’s why people forced him to resign, “Laserna said.
José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, also expressed doubts about the arrests, saying Saturday that “arrest warrants against Añez and his ministers do not contain any evidence that he has committed the crime of” terrorism. “”.
“For this reason, they raise well-founded doubts that this is a process based on political motives,” he added.
And another former Bolivian president, Jorge Fernando “Tuto” Quiroga, who ruled from 2001 to 2002, has joined the chorus of national and international leaders denouncing Áñez’s arrest.
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