Bolivia political tensions reignite with arrest of ex-President Anez

Bolivia political tensions reignite with arrest of ex-President Anez

Bolivia's former interim President Jeanine Anez is seen in a car outside the FELCC (Special Fo
Bolivia's former interim President Jeanine Anez is seen in a car outside the FELCC (Special Force to fight against Crime) headquarters in La Paz, Bolivia March 13, 2021. REUTERS/Manuel Claure

LA PAZ: Bolivia's former interim President Jeanine Anez vowed on Saturday (Mar 13) to seek international redress after she was arrested for her alleged involvement in an alleged 2019 coup, reigniting political tensions in the Andean nation.

Anez, who helmed Bolivia for less than a year after former President Evo Morales left office following contested elections and violent protests, was arrested in a dawn raid on her home in the central city of Trinidad and transferred to La Paz by military plane.

She said her detention was "irregular" and as a former president should have immunity from prosecution.

"It is an absolute outrage, they are accusing us of being accomplices of an alleged coup," she told local television after arriving at La Paz airport under heavy police escort.

"There is not a grain of truth in the accusations, it is simple political intimidation. There was no coup, I took part in a constitutional succession."

The move marks an escalation of hostilities between the current leftist administration of Morales' political ally and successor President Luis Arce and more conservative political opponents they accuse of ousting Morales.

Bolivia's socialist government, which swept back to power in October last year, is seeking the arrest of a raft of officials in Anez's right-wing former administration as well as ex-police and military leaders.

Anez took power in late 2019 after Morales resigned amid widespread violent protests against his government over allegations he had stolen an election when running for an unprecedented - and unconstitutional - fourth term.

At least 33 people were killed in violence that followed the election, 30 of them after Anez took office.

Government Minister Eduardo del Castillo confirmed on Saturday that the Public Prosecutor's Office had detained Anez for involvement in a "coup in our country".

He said the investigation against her and her ministers began in December and would follow due process. He also confirmed the arrest of Anez's former Justice Minister Álvaro Coimbra and former Energy Minister Rodrigo Guzmán.

"There is no political persecution on our part here, and we do not fear anyone who thinks differently," he told a news conference. "Our government is making sure justice exists in our country."

The arrests drew swift condemnation from the Americas director of Human Rights Watch, Jose Miguel Vivanco, who said the arrest warrants - tweeted on Friday by Anez - contained no evidence to support a claim of "terrorism". "For that reason, they generate justifiable doubts about whether this is not a politically motivated process." 

Morales and his supporters have long claimed he was forced out in a military-backed coup and have alleged involvement by foreign governments. Morales' MAS socialist party returned to power in elections in October under President Arce.

Morales tweeted his support for the move, saying there had to be justice for the people killed, injured and detained following the "coup".

"The authors and accomplices of the dictatorship that looted the economy and attacked life and democracy in Bolivia must be investigated and punished," he wrote.

Morales won the 2019 election but it was later annulled after international organisations including the Organization of American States (OAS) alleged it was fraudulent.

Anez's 11-month caretaker administration took Bolivia in a sharply different direction to Morales and had itself detained some members of Morales' previous government.

Arce, Morales' former economy minister, won the presidency in a landslide election, enabling Morales to return from exile.

Bolivian prosecutors are also seeking to arrest two former commanders accused by the current government of involvement in the purported coup against Morales. The military had urged Morales to resign during the protests in 2019.

Source: Reuters

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