Start of trial for “coup” of the former Bolivian president

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La Paz (AFP) Some call her a ‘political prisoner’, but others say she led a coup: former interim president Jeanine Anez will go on trial on Thursday accused of orchestrating the ousting of her predecessor as leader from Bolivia, Evo Morales.

Conservative Anez, 54, has been in pretrial detention for 11 months. She has been on hunger strike, not for the first time, since last Wednesday.

She and eight other former soldiers will be tried from 9 a.m. (1300 GMT).

Anez is accused of assuming the presidency unconstitutionally in November 2019 following the resignation of Morales, who fled into exile after 14 years in power.

Morales resigned and left the country amid street protests against his re-election the previous month.

The Organization of American States (OAS) conducted an audit and found clear evidence of electoral irregularities.

“I assumed the presidency of Bolivia without asking for it, without seeking it and even less waiting for it (…) with the sole mission of calling new elections and pacifying a country in convulsion,” Anez said on Tuesday. .

His lawyer Luis Guillen accused the authorities of bias because the document that opens the trial describes Anez as the “de facto” and “unconstitutional” ex-president.

Guillen demanded an in-person trial and that witnesses be called for cross-examination after the prosecution said it would only submit witness statements.

On Tuesday, a group of 21 former Latin American presidents called on the United Nations to visit Anez and investigate potential “abuses of power” in his treatment.

“Massacres”

Another charge of sedition, terrorism and conspiracy against Anez is still under investigation.

Guillen said both investigations concerned “the same event”, adding that it violated a general principle of law.

He added that “an ordinary court cannot decide what is constitutional”.

Guillen said an ex-president should not be tried in a regular court but rather face a congressional accountability trial.

The plaintiffs in this case are the government, the prosecution and the congress dominated by the ruling party, the Movement for Socialism.

Jeanine Anez returns to Miraflores Women’s Penitentiary Center after being taken to hospital for medical treatment in La Paz in August 2021 JORGE BERNALAFP

“This is a political trial carried out by the government of President Luis Arce,” said political scientist Carlos Cordero of the University of San Andres.

“It is a way of establishing political sanction for those who dared to be adversaries in times of crisis for the Movement for Socialism.”

Anez is also charged with genocide following complaints filed by families of victims of a police crackdown on protesters in November 2019.

A group of experts commissioned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the government said 22 people had been killed in “massacres” carried out by security forces.

Unlike the other charges, however, it will be dealt with by Congress in a liability trial.

The report also questions the independence of the Bolivian judicial system.

Sudden change in results

In October 2019, Morales ran for a fourth consecutive term for president despite the constitution setting a limit to two successive terms.

The election appeared to be headed for a second ballot until a 24-hour blackout in live, transparent reporting of the results.

When it resumed, Morales had suddenly taken a winning lead.

There followed three weeks of protests against his re-election during which Morales lost police and military support and fled the country.

Those who would have succeeded him – all members of his MAS party – also resigned and fled either abroad or to embassies, leaving Anez – then vice-president of the Senate – as the most senior official remaining in office.

Congress, which was controlled by the MAS, recognized her as interim president despite the lack of a quorum due to a boycott by many MAS members.

Its only task was to organize new elections, but they took a year to be held, in part because of postponements related to the coronavirus pandemic.

With Morales living in Argentina, his former finance minister Arce won.

Anez ceded power in November 2020 and was arrested in March 2021.