Bolivia Ex-President Anez Arrested in ‘Coup’ Probe

La Paz, March 13 (AFP/APP): Bolivia’s former acting president Jeanine Anez was arrested Saturday on terrorism and sedition charges over what her predecessor and political rival Evo Morales denounced as a “coup” that unseated him.

Police were also rounding up former ministers who backed the conservative politician’s caretaker government, which was in place for a year after Morales fled the country in November 2019 amid disputed elections, media reports said. The arrests came months after Morales returned to Bolivia from exile on the back of a fresh election victory in October 2020 for the leftist Movement for Socialism (MAS) party he founded.

The presidency and congress are now under the control of MAS. “I inform the Bolivian people that Mrs. Jeanine Anez has already been apprehended and is currently in the hands of the police,” government minister Carlos Eduardo del Castillo wrote on Twitter and Facebook. Castillo congratulated the police for their “great work” in the “historic task of giving justice” to the Bolivian people. Morales, for his part, demanded in a tweet that the “authors and accomplices” of what he denounced as a “coup d’etat” against him be “investigated and punished.”

Bolivia’s public prosecutor issued an arrest warrant Friday for Anez and others on charges of terrorism, sedition and conspiracy. Anez tweeted a copy of the warrant with the response: “The political persecution has begun.” She added the government was accusing her “of having participated in a coup d’etat that never happened.”

Illegal

In the early hours of Saturday, Bolivian television showed images of Anez, not handcuffed, arriving at La Paz’s El Alto airport, accompanied by Castillo and several police officers. In brief remarks to the press, she denounced her arrest as “illegal.” She was later taken to a government ministry building to be questioned.

Anez’s former energy minister Rodrigo Guzman and his justice counterpart Alvaro Coimbra, both listed on the prosecutor’s warrant, were detained on Friday. Coimbra protested the “illegal and abusive” arrest of his former colleague Guzman, before he, too, was brought in. “We have said that we will always make ourselves available to the law,” Coimbra told Bolivian TV as he was placed into a police vehicle. Anez, a former senator, took over as caretaker president after Morales left Bolivia.

He had lost the support of the armed forces amid violent protests against his re-election to an unconstitutional fourth term. Several Morales allies who held senior posts also fled, leaving Anez the most senior Senate official still standing. Morales was himself the target of sedition and terrorism charges in an investigation opened shortly after Anez took power.

But he returned from exile last November after his MAS romped to victory in an October 2020 general election that saw the party’s Luis Arce win the presidency. Morales has since taken over the leadership of the party.

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