The first La Paz court that handed down its verdict on Friday sentenced former Bolivian President Jeanine Anez to 10 years in prison for the crimes of “unconstitutional decisions” and “breach of duties”, in one of several processes pursued by Bolivian justice. The 54-year-old politician has been in prison for over a year. The trial noted Anez’s actions after Evo Morales’ resignation in 2019 and his subsequent proclamation as president, actions that prosecutors deemed a “coup”.
For the Bolivian ruling party, the sentence “sets a precedent so that a coup d’etat will not be attempted again in Bolivia”. On the other hand, the opposition unanimously rejected the outcome of the trial, which the party of former President Carlos Mesa described as “one of the most shameful examples of the administration of the public prosecution and the judiciary in favor of the vague interests of the government party”. Along with Anez, the former commander of the armed forces, Williams Kaliman, and the former chief of police, Yuri Calderon, the fugitives, were sentenced to ten years in prison. Other former military leaders were sentenced to prison terms of between two and four years.
The judges’ decision was known in a virtual session. The trial was only semi-face to face and determining when there should be actual meetings and when there should be no disagreement between the defense and the judges. The former president was not allowed to appear in court, citing security concerns. On June 9, she participated “online” in her last hearing regarding allegations from the prison where she is being held. She mentioned that she fell asleep from the medications she was given to relieve the stress of the operation. Her daughter, who was with her and her lawyer, insisted that she was not fit to continue the trial, but the court took the advice of the prison doctors, and though it ordered a break, it listened to the pleading to the end. Subsequently, the defense denounced the “cruel and degrading treatment” of the press. Government lawyers believe that these complaints are intended to prepare for a future appeal to an international court.
Anez: “I was the result of everything that happened in 2019”
To hear the last words of the accused, the judges visited them in their prisons. Before them, Añez noted: “I have been accused of crimes that I did not commit, that I did not invent, only to satisfy political power. I have been denied the right to justice. This is how they treated a woman, mother, a former president, who is innocent. Because all of Bolivia knows that the crimes they accuse me of I didn’t do it. Every Bolivia knows that [solo] I was the result of everything that happened in 2019. He also stated that he had “the government, not the power.” He emphasized that the legal battle would continue: “We will not stay here. We will appeal internationally.”
The defense objected to a request for such severe punishment on charges of an administrative nature. But the main observation of Anez’s legal team, as well as the opposition politicians who support it, is that the illegal acts of which she was accused were divided into several groups and, accordingly, into several different operations. It is for this reason that, in this case, the prosecution was able to sue Anez before an ordinary court, arguing that the crimes she was accused of had been committed before she became president of Bolivia. In this way, the impeachment escaped the constitutional obligation to prosecute former presidents in a trial of responsibilities, a special process that must begin in the legislature with a two-thirds vote of Representatives. The government of President Luis Ars does not have enough support for this and preferred to avoid negotiating with the opposition parliamentary forces, who initially did not want to prosecute Anez, but later changed their mind to try to give the former president a better process. Circumstances. of those he had. As a result, the main crimes that, according to the prosecution, were the responsibility of Anez, such as the suppression of protests against her government in which more than 30 people were killed and 85 injured, were not included in this trial. They will not be judged as long as the relationship of parliamentary forces does not change.
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The ruling party’s always complex and incoherent legal strategy has confounded its bases. Before knowing the verdict, the powerful Unity Charter, the trade union structure and social movements of the Socialist Movement (MAS), threatened to take over the judicial institutions and mobilize if Anez was not sentenced to the maximum sentence (30 years in prison) for running the government, ignoring that this was not what was being analyzed at the trial. .
A third set of questions about the just-finished process point to its unusual properties: its speed, having barely lasted a year when similar processes usually take three or four times as much in Bolivia. One of Anez’s defense attorneys, Louis Guillen, called it a “frank trial.” To investigate this record, the court identified the evidence and witnesses presented by the defense, and required them all to refer to the short period of time in which the events investigated took place, which the defense also denounced as an indication of bias. . According to this legal team, by not considering the context of what was being prosecuted, the discussion of alleged election fraud in October 2019 was dismissed as the origin of the political crisis that culminated in the downfall of President Evo Morales and his replacement by Añez. .
The court determined what happened between November 10, 2019, when Morales, mired in protests against him, resigned due to a police mutiny and betrayal of the armed forces, and November 12, the day Jeanine Anez became president. It ruled that the then second vice president of the Senate had acted against the Constitution and had failed in her duties as a public official. It was appropriate to convene a parliamentary meeting with a quorum at which the resignations of Morales, Vice President Álvaro García Linera and the presidents of the Senate and House of Representatives were discussed, and then it was decided who would head the executive branch. Instead, Anez, with the support of army and police chiefs, declared herself president in a parliamentary session without a quorum.
For its part, the defense pointed out the difficult conditions that prevailed in those days when the police were rebellious and there was violence in the streets. He accused the Islamic American Movement of ordering the resignation of all legislative powers and preventing the assembly meeting from having a quorum, and noted that Anez, who was the highest authority in the country at the time, took office by constitutional succession to prevent a catastrophic “power vacuum” for the country.
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