Jeanine Añez, Former Bolivian President, Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

Jeanine Añez, the previous president of Bolivia, was sentenced to 10 years in jail on Friday following accusations that she illegally took over the presidency after the resignation of her predecessor, Evo Morales.

The trial, the newest chapter in Bolivia’s long-running political turmoil, has raised considerations that the nation’s leaders are utilizing the courts to goal political adversaries, and that the sentencing represents a bigger democratic disaster in the small South American nation and throughout the area.

“Democracy is in question, not just in Bolivia, but all of Latin America,” mentioned Gonzalo Mendieta, a lawyer and political analyst based mostly in Bolivia’s seat of presidency, La Paz.

Ms. Añez was arrested on March 13, 2021, in her hometown, Trinidad, and brought to La Paz after a warrant was issued accusing her of terrorism and sedition. She was additionally charged with a number of different offenses, and was held in jail for practically 15 months awaiting trial.

She was sentenced on Friday by the Tribunal Primero de Sentencia de La Paz, on the fees of breaching her duties and enacting resolutions in opposition to Bolivia’s Constitution.

Luis Guillén, Ms. Añez’s lawyer, advised The New York Times that he believed the courtroom’s resolution was politically motivated and that Bolivia’s present authorities, led by a socialist ally of Mr. Morales, broke the regulation in their therapy of Ms. Añez throughout her detention.

We will “exhaust resources within the country and then appeal to international organizations,” Mr. Guillén mentioned.

Iván Lima, Bolivia’s justice minister, denied the accusations, saying there was “no evidence” to help them. “We are a government that respects the rules of due process, and that extends democratic rule to all political actors,” Mr. Lima mentioned in an interview.

Once a little-known conservative senator, Ms. Añez rose to the forefront of Bolivia’s political scene in November 2019, when Mr. Morales, Bolivia’s longtime president, a socialist and the nation’s first Indigenous chief, lost his grip on energy and fled into exile in Argentina amid violent protests set off by his disputed election.

Ms. Añez stepped ahead, promising to be solely a caretaker interim president and to maintain new elections in which she wouldn’t run. But nearly instantly, she began to reshape Bolivia’s international coverage. A conservative Christian, she launched non secular symbols into secular state procedures and began a marketing campaign in opposition to the leftist supporters of Mr. Morales, who throughout his 14 years in office had pressured the significance of Indigenous tradition.

Her authorities then charged Mr. Morales with sedition and terrorism, although worldwide human rights teams mentioned proof to substantiate these expenses was missing and known as the case in opposition to him politically motivated.

Ms. Añez’s protection staff has insisted that in 2019 she had to step in to fill an influence vacuum, however Mr. Morales’s supporters known as the ouster a “coup.”

In closing testimony on Friday Ms. Añez echoed their arguments, telling judges that she was harmless and that her rise to energy was “a consequence of all that happened” two years in the past.

“I didn’t move a finger to reach the presidency,” Ms. Añez mentioned.

It didn’t take lengthy for Ms. Añez, 54, to turn into deeply unpopular with the Bolivian public, for causes that ranged from purported human rights violations to her antagonism of Mr. Morales’s Movement to Socialism get together, which stays Bolivia’s largest, and maybe most importantly, her dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic and the financial disruption that adopted.

Ms. Añez deserted her marketing campaign for Bolivia’s presidency a couple of month earlier than the Oct. 18, 2020, election, when voters selected the Morales-backed socialist Luis Arce.

She has denied the allegations in opposition to her and mentioned she was a sufferer of “political persecution.”

As prosecutors introduced ultimate arguments contained in the courtroom on Wednesday, a bunch of anti-Añez protesters gathered outdoors, a lot of whom mentioned that they had been oppressed throughout her authorities. They known as for the ex-leader to obtain the utmost sentence, 15 years, screaming “no negotiation with spilled blood.”

The sentencing represents a victory for Mr. Arce’s authorities and the Movement Toward Socialism get together, reinforcing its long-held narrative that Ms. Añez’s rise to energy was a coup.

But the choice additionally has spurred considerations in regards to the independence of Bolivia’s justice system, which Cesar Muñoz, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, mentioned has been harnessed by earlier governments on each ends of the political spectrum to search “revenge” on their political opponents.

“We worry about what this means for the impartiality of the justice system,” Mr. Muñoz mentioned. “Those in power have used the justice system for their own political purposes.”

Mr. Morales’s authorities confronted allegations of political persecution of journalists and opposition politicians, in addition to the manipulation of the judicial system for political ends.

Human Rights Watch mentioned the federal government of Ms. Añez “publicly pressured prosecutors and judges to act to further its interests,” which the group mentioned led to legal investigations of greater than 100 folks related to the Morales authorities over accusations of crimes of sedition or terrorism.

Under Mr. Arce’s authorities, Ms. Añez now faces the identical expenses of terrorism for crimes she is alleged to have dedicated earlier than her presidency — and for which Mr. Muñoz mentioned there’s equally little proof — in addition to accusations of genocide from her time in office.

The State Department, alongside different observers just like the European Union, has expressed worries about “growing signs of anti-democratic behavior and the politicization of the legal system in Bolivia.”

The ruling additionally comes as a number of different Latin American leaders have proven authoritarian tendencies.

Most notably, in El Salvador greater than 36,000 people were arrested after the nation’s Parliament gave President Nayib Bukele the ability to droop some civil liberties to crack down on gang violence. The Brookings Institution has additionally famous “democratic erosion” in Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Paraguay, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

“When you examine the region, it looks incredibly tumultuous,” Mr. Mendieta, the lawyer and political analyst in La Paz, mentioned.

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