Saturday, December 4

Bolivia’s political crisis deepens after the arrest of the former interim president

The conservative interim president who led Bolivia for a year was arrested on Saturday and released shortly thereafter.

Jeanine Anez was released after being questioned by the Prosecutor’s Office in the capital La Paz.

Officials from the restored left-wing government are persecuting people they believe were involved in the removal from power of socialist leader Evo Morales in 2019.

Other arrest warrants have been issued for more than a dozen former officials. Among them are several former cabinet ministers, as well as former military leader William Kaliman and the police chief who had urged Morales to resign in 2019.

Anez had been detained in her hometown of Trinidad and was later flown to the capital, La Paz.

“This is an abuse,” he told reporters after his appearance at the prosecution. “There was no coup, but rather constitutional succession.”

From a police cell in La Paz, Anez called on the Organization of American States and the European Union to send missions to Bolivia to assess what she called “an illegal detention.”

His arrest and the arrest warrants of others have further aggravated political tensions in Bolivia.

It has already been ripped apart by a cascade of perceived mistakes suffered by both sides. Morales’s detractors maintain that he had become more authoritarian with nearly 13 years in office, that he illegally ran for a fourth reelection and then allegedly manipulated the outcome.

On the contrary, his supporters allege that right-wing forces led violent protests that led security forces to pressure him to resign. They then allegedly cracked down on their supporters, who protested the alleged coup themselves.

Dozens of people were killed in a series of demonstrations against and later in favor of Morales, who was Bolivia’s first indigenous leader.

“This is not justice,” said former President Carlos Mesa, who has finished second behind Morales in several elections. “They are looking to behead an opposition by creating a false coup narrative to distract from a fraud.”

Morales, for his part, sent a tweet in which he said: “The authors and accomplices of the dictatorship must be investigated and published.”

The director for the Americas of Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco, said from Washington that the arrest warrants against Anez and his ministers “do not contain any evidence that they have committed the crime of terrorism.”

The spokesman for the UN secretary general tweeted that the rule of law must be respected.

After Morales resigned, or was pushed, and flew abroad, many of his key supporters also resigned. Ánez, a lawmaker who had descended several rungs on the ladder of presidential succession, was promoted to the interim presidency.

Once there, he abruptly turned Bolivia’s policies to the right and his administration tried to prosecute Morales and a number of his supporters on charges of terrorism and sedition, alleging electoral fraud and oppression of protests.

But Morales’s Movement for Socialism remained popular. He won last year’s election with 55 percent of the vote under his chosen candidate Luis Arce, who took office in November. Anez had retired after sinking in the polls.

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