Bolivia sentences ex-president to 10 years in prison after coup trial

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Bolivia’s former interim president, Jeanine Anez, late on Friday was convicted by a court of leading an alleged coup that deposed her left-wing predecessor, and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment after a closely watched trial.

Anez, a conservative whose presidency was backed by the Trump administration, came to power after a political crisis in 2019 that saw the socialist incumbent Evo Morales flee into exile. After Morales tried to run for a fourth term in succession, but was blocked by the Constitution, chaos ensued and Anez (then a fairly obscure senator) took over as the nation’s top office.

The 54-year-old Anez was convicted of violating the constitution and “dereliction of duty,” according to Reuters. According to Reuters, she has denied any wrongdoing and intends to appeal. Anez left office after Luis Arce, who had been Morales’s finance minister, won the presidency in a landslide in late 2020. Anez was detained for almost a year after she dropped out of the race because of poor polling.

“I have been accused of crimes that I have not committed, that were invented,” she said in testimony on Friday. “I had the government, but I never had power … it was simply a transitional government.”

In reality, Anez replaced Bolivia’s top military brass, Morales’s cabinet ministers and heads of major state-owned enterprises within days of coming to power. Her government also jailed and prosecuted many left-wing critics and was accused of enacting the “politics of revenge.”

But Bolivians remain divided on the question of whether Anez’s rise to the presidency was, in fact, a coup. Her treatment during her detention has led to accusations of retribution from her enemies.

Anez’s mental and physical health has deteriorated in jail and she slit her wrists after being charged separately with genocide, prompting the European Union and the United States to urge the government to safeguard her well-being.

She was not allowed to participate in her defense in court, instead following the trial from prison. Her family stated earlier this week that she was forced to go to the hearings after being administered medicine.

The centrist former president Carlos Mesa, who was a losing candidate in the 2020 election, has criticized how the trial was conducted and urged international observers to intervene.

“The crimes for which Anez was convicted, dereliction of duty and taking decisions contrary to the law, are very broadly defined in Bolivian law,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Cesar Munoz on Twitter. “They were misused by the Evo Morales government and the Anez government in criminal cases that appeared to be politically motivated.”

He urged a higher tribunal to review the evidence and examine if Anez’s rights were violated.

Herrero reported from Caracas, Venezuela, and Ang from Seoul. This report was contributed by Samantha Schmidt.

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