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ex-president Jeanine Añez sentenced to 10 years in prison

The La Paz Court of First Instance accuses the 54-year-old former senator of having participated in a coup against her predecessor, Evo Morales.

Jeanine Añez, who became interim president of Bolivia at the end of 2019, just after the resignation of Evo Morales, was sentenced to ten years in prison, accused of having participated in a coup against her predecessor.

The Court of First Instance of La Paz decided on Friday of a “conviction” to one “10 year sentence” of imprisonment, three months after the start of the trial and 15 months after his placement in pre-trial detention. The former heads of the armed forces, William Kalimán, and of the police, Yuri Calderón, both fugitives, received the same sentence. Jeanine Añez, 54, was convicted of “dereliction of duty” and “decisions contrary to the Constitution and the laws”. She is accused of having acceded to the presidency in an unconstitutional manner in November 2019, following the resignation of Evo Morales (2006-2019), against the backdrop of mass demonstrations linked to alleged electoral fraud denounced by the Organization American States (OAS).

She had announced that she would appeal a possible conviction: “We will not stop there, we will go before international justice”. The former head of state must also still be tried in a second trial for “sedition, armed uprising and genocide” when she was acting president. The accusation of genocide follows complaints from families of victims of the repression carried out by the security forces at the end of 2019 in the strongholds of Evo Morales, which had left 22 dead according to a group of independent experts. In her last statement, this right-wing woman claimed that the court had “excluded” evidence to deny a reversal of Evo Morales.

“The most astute and heinous coup in history”

Almost unknown until she came to power, this trained lawyer and former television presenter proclaimed herself interim president of the Andean country on November 12, 2019, two days after the resignation of President Morales. At the end of the presidential election of October 2019, during which Evo Morales was running for a fourth term, and in the context of confusion which had surrounded the results giving him the winner, the opposition had cried fraud. An explosion of violence followed the vote, which was finally canceled.

Second vice-president of the Senate, Jeanine Añez had taken office, Bible in hand and girded with the presidential sash, thanks to a power vacuum caused by the resignations in chain of Evo Morales and his constitutional successors. The Constitutional Court had validated his election. The first head of the indigenous state, then a refugee in Mexico before fleeing to Argentina, had denounced “the most astute and heinous coup in history”.

The government “accuses me of having participated in a coup that never took place”, reacted Jeanine Añez shortly before her arrest in March 2021 in Trinidad, in the region of Beni (north-east) where she was born on June 13, 1967 and where she had resided since her departure from power. She then went on a hunger strike in detention, claiming to be a “political prisoner”. “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 pacifying the country in crisis”she said shortly before the start of her trial in early February.

Senator since 2010 and activist of a minority party, Unidad Democratica (Democratic Unity), she was elected second vice-president of the Senate under the tradition that all groups are represented. At the head of the interim government from November 2019 to November 2020, she had promised as soon as she took office to call general elections. “as quickly as possible” within a few months, but the ballot had to be postponed several times, in particular due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Against her promise, she finally announced her candidacy for the 2020 presidential election, arousing criticism from her opponents on the left, but also from her own allies on the right. She had ended up giving up in the face of unfavorable polls which placed her in fourth position very far behind the left-wing candidate and dolphin of Evo Morales, Luis Arce. Faced with victory in the first round of the latter in October 2020, she immediately recognized the defeat of her camp. Candidate for the governorship of Beni in local elections, she had failed to be elected.

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