Bolivian ex-president Anez begins four-month detention over 'coup' allegations

Danny Ramos and Monica Machicao
·3-min read
Bolivia's former interim President Anez moves from the FELCC to women's jail, in La Paz

By Danny Ramos and Monica Machicao

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Bolivia's former President Jeanine Anez on Monday began four months of detention as investigators probe allegations she participated in a coup that led to the removal of longtime leader Evo Morales from power in 2019.

Anez, who led a conservative government that lasted for less than a year after the ouster of Morales, a leftist, was taken into police custody after a raid on her home in the north-central city of Trinidad early on Saturday morning.

A judge on Sunday ordered that Anez be detained for four months after a hearing in which the allegations against her were outlined, including that she used security force allies to push Morales to resign after contested elections and eventually install herself as interim president.

Anez was transferred to a women's prison in the capital La Paz on Monday.

Justice Minister Ivan Lima said on state television late on Sunday that he would ultimately seek a 30-year jail sentence if Anez is convicted of fomenting a coup.

Lima added that the state would look to introduce further charges of corruption and what he described as grave human rights abuses, without giving further details of the accusations.

"We are talking about bloody massacres, and we will press on with our bid to give the Bolivian people justice," he said.

Anez's energy and justice ministers also were ordered into custody after hearings on Sunday. The three face charges of terrorism, sedition and conspiracy over the alleged coup.

Tensions were high in Bolivia on Monday amid rumors of further arrests to come. Protests have been called for in major cities including La Paz, Sucre and Santa Cruz, while police have been ordered to step up security around state buildings, particularly prosecutors' offices, ahead of potential unrest.

Bolivia's police chief said on Sunday he had no more arrest orders pending.

The crackdown on former members of Anez's administration as well as police and military chiefs represents a sharp change of direction by President Luis Arce, who was Morales' economy minister. Arce pledged to “rebuild and stabilize” the Andean nation when he led Morales' Movement for Socialism party back into office in elections last October.

Anez, 53, a lawyer and former senator for the center-right Democrat Social Movement, took power after Morales resigned amid widespread violent protests and claims backed by international organizations that he fraudulently won the October 2019 election.

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

She has rejected the charges against her as “political persecution” and insisted she took part in a “constitutional succession” to replace Morales after he stepped down.

Anez's lawyer Ariel Coronado told local television on Monday that he would appeal the decision to remand his client in custody, since there was no evidence to support the state's case against her.

He said his client had played no part in the civil unrest following the 2019 election that led up to Morales' resignation, remaining in her home city of Trinidad.

(Reporting by Danny Ramos and Monica Machicao, Writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Paul Simao)