Bolivia’s ex-interim president Anez appears in court after arrest

Prosecutor accuses Jeanine Anez and two of her ministers of sedition, terrorism and conspiracy for alleged 2019 coup.

Bolivia's former interim President Jeanine Anez was arrested on March 13 on accusations of sedition, terrorism and conspiracy [Manuel Claure/Reuters]

Bolivia’s former interim President Jeanine Anez made her first appearance in front of a judge via video link on Sunday, after authorities arrested her on allegations she helped foment a 2019 coup against the country’s then-government.

During the hearing, Anez and her former ministers of energy and justice, Rodrigo Guzman and Alvaro Coimbra, were accused of sedition, terrorism and conspiracy.

Public prosecutor Harold Jarandilla said the defendants used security force allies to push then-President Evo Morales to resign after contested October 2019 elections in the South American nation prompted protests.

Jarandilla also alleged the former officials “rigged” events in the political vacuum that followed the unrest to install Anez as interim president.

Anez was arrested in the early hours of Saturday morning in her hometown of Trinidad and flown to the capital, La Paz.

She had tweeted an arrest order, with the response, “the political persecution has begun” – and has since called on the European Union and the Organization of American States to send observer missions to follow the case.

Jarandilla said Anez posed a flight risk and he called for her and her ministers to be held on six-months pretrial detention.

According to an arrest warrant seen by the Reuters news agency, several other ministers from the Anez government are also sought along with police, military and opposition figures.

Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, resigned in November 2019 amid pressure from some of the public, the armed forces and opposition leaders who accused him of stealing the election a month earlier.

He returned from exile in Argentina in November of last year after the candidate from his Movement for Socialism (MAS) party won long-awaited presidential polls.

President Luis Arce, who won 55 percent of the vote in the October 2020 contest and easily avoided a runoff, promised to “rebuild” Bolivia in the wake of a tumultuous year scarred by political turmoil and the coronavirus pandemic.

A demonstrator participates in a protest in front of the Special Force to Fight against Crime (FELCC) headquarters to demand jail for Jeanine Anez in La Paz, Bolivia, on March 14 [David Mercado/Reuters]

On Saturday morning, Morales tweeted that “the authors and accomplices of the dictatorship that looted the economy and attacked life and democracy in Bolivia” should be investigated and punished.

Anez has claimed she is a victim of political persecution and insisted she took part in a “constitutional succession” to replace Morales after he stepped down.

Meanwhile, the United Nations, EU and United States called for due process to be respected.

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

“For that reason, they generate justifiable doubts about whether this is not a politically motivated process,” he tweeted.

The Bolivian Episcopal Conference (CEB) called for the immediate release of those detained.

“The politics of revenge and resentment and a justice system dependent on political power do not create trust in the people and will harm us all, sooner or later,” the CEB said in a statement issued late on Saturday.

Source: News Agencies