Six months after arrest, no trial date for Bolivian ex-president

In this file photo taken on March 13, 2021, former interim Bolivia’s President Jeanine Anez (centre) is escorted by police members of the Special Force against Crime (FELCC) after being arrested in La Paz. — AFP pic
In this file photo taken on March 13, 2021, former interim Bolivia’s President Jeanine Anez (centre) is escorted by police members of the Special Force against Crime (FELCC) after being arrested in La Paz. — AFP pic

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LA PAZ, Sept 14 — Six months after being arrested on coup charges by a Bolivian government allied to her political rival Evo Morales, ex-president Jeanine Anez is still awaiting a trial date.

The 54-year-old, who claims she is the victim of “political persecution,” attempted suicide in a jail in La Paz last month while suffering from “severe depression” due to her prolonged pre-trial detention, according to her daughter, Carolina Ribera.

Last month, a Bolivian court added another six months to Anez’s custody, until March 2022, meaning she could spend a year in jail without seeing the inside of a court.

“Evo Morales... is holding her to spread a message of fear to all opposition leaders and all Bolivians who think differently,” Ribera told AFP last week.

The conservative Anez had come to power in November 2019 after Morales and senior allies in his Movement for Socialism (MAS) resigned following weeks of protest over his controversial re-election to an unconstitutional fourth term.

As Morales fled into exile after 14 years in power, Anez was the most senior parliamentarian left and was sworn in by congress as interim president, despite the lack of a quorum, with MAS legislators boycotting the session.

Morales and his allies claimed they had been the victims of a right-wing coup.

Under Anez’s administration, Bolivia held elections in October 2020 in which Morales protege Luis Arce stormed to a landslide victory and she handed over the reins of power.

Then in March this year, Anez was arrested and charged with leading a coup, terrorism, sedition, conspiracy and failure to perform official duties.

‘Servile’ justice

The lawyer and former television presenter was more recently also charged with “genocide” over protesters’ deaths during violence between supporters and opponents of Morales — as well as between protesters and the security forces — that left 37 people dead in November 2019.

The accusation relates to two incidents in which 22 people died just days after she became president in what a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights described as “massacres.”

The same report questioned the independence of the South American country’s justice system and cautioned against the “arbitrary use” of “ambiguous” crimes on the statute book, including some of those leveled against Anez.

Her detention has elicited widespread international condemnation and Anez’s family has repeatedly asked the government to free her, or at least transfer her to a hospital for treatment for hypertension and other health conditions.

“In Bolivia, justice is completely manipulated and servile to the government,” said her daughter, Ribera.

Bolivia’s opposition has decried the lack of separation of powers in the country, saying the courts, electoral body and public prosecutor’s office are all loyal to Arce. — AFP

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