Judge orders 4 months pre-trial detention for Bolivia’s Áñez

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — A judge in Bolivia on Sunday ordered former interim president Jeanine Áñez held for four months in preventative detention following her arrest on charges linked to the 2019 ouster of socialist leader Evo Morales, which his supporters consider a coup détat.

Prosecutors accuse Áñez, who assumed the presidency following Morales’ resignation and exile, of terrorism and sedition for the violent social explosion that led to his ouster. She was arrested on Saturday and has called her detention an “abuse,” denying that a coup took place.

After a virtual hearing due to the pandemic, judge Regina Santa Cruz backed prosecutors’ request that Áñez be held in a women’s prison in La Paz. The judge also ordered four months of preventative arrest for two of her former ministers.

Áñez and the two ex-ministers heard the ruling from police cells and will be transferred to prison in the coming hours.

Earlier, Áñez called on the Organization of American States and the European Union to send missions to Bolivia to evaluate what she called “an illegal detention.”

The arrest of Áñez and warrants against numerous other former officials has further worsened political tensions in a South American country already torn by a cascade of perceived wrongs suffered by both sides. Those include complaints that Morales had grown more authoritarian with nearly 13 years in office, that he illegally ran for a fourth reelection and then allegedly rigged the outcome, that right-wing forces led violent protests that prompted security forces to push him into resigning and then cracked down on his followers, who themselves protested an alleged coup.

Dozens of people were killed in 2019 in a series of demonstrations against and then for Morales.

On Saturday, Morales sent a tweet saying, “The authors and accomplices of the dictatorship should be investigated and published.”

After Morales resigned — or was pushed — and flew abroad, many of his key supporters also resigned. Áñez, a legislator who had been several rungs down the ladder of presidential succession, was vaulted into the interim presidency.

But Morales Movement Toward Socialism remained popular. It won last year’s elections with 55% of the vote under Morales’ chosen candidate Luis Arce, who took the presidency in November.

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