Bolivia: Evo Morales warns of new coup

Former Bolivian president Evo Morales, back in his country from exile in Argentina after October's elections returned his Movement to Socialism (MAS) to power, warned Dec. 27 of the ongoing danger of a new coup d'etat and asked his followers to debate how to best defend new President Luis Arce and the "process of change." The comments came at a meeting in Chapare region of the MAS and affiliated Six Federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba, the campesino alliance that Morales once led. Recalling his own ouster in November 2019, Morales said: "The issue of the coup is still compelling; it is an ideological, programmatic struggle; it is a cultural, social, communal and, of course, an electoral struggle." Invoking divided loyalties in the military, he added: "I am also convinced that in the Armed Forces there are not only those who respect and admire the MAS, but there are also anti-imperialist soldiers." However, he added that "they are not many," and others have "submitted to the North American empire." (Prensa LatinaPrensa Latina)

However, the meeting—at an outdoor stadium in the pueblo of Lauca Ñ—also manifested divisions within Morales' own party. As the summit continued the following day, a member of the audience hurled a plastic chair at Morales while he was speaking, along with cries from the assailant and his comrades for "renovation" within the MAS. Morales dismissed the assailants as "infiltrators." (BBC Mundo, El Mundo, Spain, La Trecera, Chile)

Reacting to what the Bolivian media have dubbed the "sillazo" (chair outrage), Morales' old rival within the country's indigenous movement, Rafael Quispe, called for the ex-president to "go home" and withdraw from political life. He said that a growing current within the MAS rejects the "dedazo"—literally "fingering," the secretive and undemocratic process by which the party elite chose the next president during the long years that Mexico was a one-party state. (Los Tiempos, Cochabamba) The comment was clearly meant to imply that the MAS has similarly become an authoritarian machine.

Quispe, who was removed from his post as vice-minister for decolonization with the change of government, has been confirmed as candidate for governor of La Paz department with the new Somos Pueblo (We are the People) alliance in upcoming regional elections. (Página Siete, La Paz) 

Backlash to the government's handling of COVID-19 may also provide a challenge for Arce, Morales and the MAS. New Year's Day saw a street protest in the city of Tarija, where demonstrators defied mask orders and carried signs decrying Bill Gates and the "Plandemia" (a reference to the "Plandemic" conspiracy theory). Slogans included "Don't be sheep," "We are not laboratory rats," and "We don't want masks, we don't want vaccines." 

The former conservative president Jeanine Añez, bitter opponent of the MAS, meanwhile blasted the new government for buying 5.2 million doses of the new Sputnik V vaccine from Russia, pointing out that Bolivia is entitled to free vaccines through the UN's COVAX program. (BoliviaPrensaOpinión, La Paz)

Bolivia: ex-interim president Jeanine Añez arrested

Bolivia former interim president Jeanine Áñez was arrested at her home in Trinidad by agents of the Special Force of Struggle Against Crime and flown to La Paz, after a warrant was issued for her on charges of terrorism, sedition and conspiracy over her involvement in the 2019 coup. Just before her detention, she tweeted: "The political persecution has begun." Upon landing in La Paz, she was able to tell reporters before being transfered to prison: "There is not a grain of truth in the accusations. It is simple political intimidation. There was no coup. I took part in a constitutional succession." (Bolivia Prensa, Al Jazeera)

Bolivia: Jeanine Añez charged with 'genocide'

The Bolivian prosecutor's office, the Fiscalía, announced Aug. 20 that it has filed charges of "genocide" against former acting president Jeanine Áñez, over the death of 20 opposition protesters in 2019.

Prosecutor General Juan Lanchipa said he had presented documents "against citizen Jeanine Áñez" before the country's Supreme Court of Justice, including charges for "genocide," which carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison. (AFP)

Jorge Quiroz, attorney for Áñez, said the ex-president is the victim of "persecution," and that conditions at the high-altitude prison where she is being held are placing her health at risk. He implied that the government is seeking her death. (Europa Press)

Jeanine Áñez appeals to IACHR

Lawyers for Jeanine Áñez appealed to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to issue an emergency order for her release, stating that she has been suicidal since being charged with "genocide." (EFE, Al Jazeera)

Opposition protests paralyze Bolivian cities

Opposition activists blocked streets in Bolivia's main cities Oct. 11 in protest against the government of President Luis Arce. Police responded with tear-gas to disperse crowds in La Paz and Cochabama. Protests also effectively shut down Santa Cruz and Tarija. Accusing Arce og "political persecution," protesters are demanding the release of former interim president Jeanine Añez, jailed on charges of leading a coup in 2019 to oust then-president Evo Morales. (PaginaSiete, AFP)