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LATIN AMERICA | 13-06-2022 13:57

Bolivian ex-leader Jeanine Áñez sentenced to 10 years in prison

Bolivian ex-president Jeanine Áñez has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for an alleged plot to oust her rival and predecessor Evo Morales.

Bolivian ex-president Jeanine Áñez has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, more than a year after her arrest for an alleged plot  to oust her rival and predecessor Evo Morales.

Áñez, who has been held in pre-trial detention since March 2021, has consistently denounced what she calls political persecution.

The former interim leader will serve 10 years in a women's prison in La Paz, the administrative capital's First Sentencing Court announced in a decision last Friday that comes three months after her trial began. 

Convicted of crimes "contrary to the constitution and a dereliction of duties," Áñez was sentenced to "a punishment of 10 years" over accusations stemming from when she was a senator, before becoming president.

Prosecutors had asked for a 15-year jail sentence.

The former leader had already announced she would appeal if convicted, saying: "We will not stop there, we will go before the international justice system."

Also sentenced to 10 years were the former head of the armed forces, William Kaliman, and the former head of the police, Yuri Calderón, both of whom are on the run.

Áñez still faces a separate, pending court case for sedition and other charges related to her short presidential stint.

At the start of her presidency, Áñez had called in the police and military to restore order. The post-election conflict caused 22 deaths, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). 

For that, Áñez also faces genocide charges, which carry prison sentences of between 10 and 20 years.

 

'Political persecution'

Right-wing Áñez became Bolivia's interim president in November 2019 after Morales, who claimed to have won a fourth consecutive term as president, fled the country in the face of mass protests against alleged electoral fraud.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) said at the time it had found clear evidence of voting irregularities in favour of Morales, who had been in power for 14 years.

Many potential successors to Morales – all members of his MAS party – also resigned and fled, leaving opposition member Áñez, then vice-president of the Senate, next in line.

Virtually unknown, the lawyer and former television presenter proclaimed herself interim president of the Andean nation on November 12, 2019, two days after Morales' resignation.

The Constitutional Court recognised Áñez's mandate as interim, caretaker president, but MAS members disputed her legitimacy.

Elections were held a year later, and won by Luis Arce – a Morales protegé.

With the presidency and congress both firmly in MAS control, Morales returned to Bolivia in November 2020.

After handing over the presidential reins to Arce, Áñez was arrested in March 2021, accused of irregularly assuming power. 

The arrest occurred in the city of Trinidad, located in the country's Beni department, where she was born and where she returned after her tenure in office. 

"I denounce before Bolivia and the world that in an act of abuse and political persecution, the MAS government has ordered my arrest," she said on Twitter at the time.

In detention, Áñez would go on to carry out hunger strikes.

Shortly before the start of her trial in mid-February, she echoed the same sentiment, stating: "I assumed the presidency of Bolivia without asking for it, without seeking it and even less expecting it... with the sole mission of organizing elections and calming a country in crisis."

According to one of Áñez's lawyers, Luis Guillen, the fact that multiple cases were being pursued against her at the same time violated the law.

He additionally maintained that the court that weighed in was not capable of deciding constitutional matters, and that the former president would need trying in Congress.

The IACHR described the 22 deaths that occurred at the beginning of Áñez's tenure as "massacres," and found they indicated "serious violations of human rights."

Unlike the other accusations against Áñez, the case will be dealt with by Congress, which will decide whether or not to hold a trial.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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