The commission of prosecutors assigned to the process against the former president of Bolivia Jeanine Añez has asked that she be punished with 15 years in prison for the crimes of “resolutions contrary to the Constitution” and “breach of duties”, in one of the several processes that Bolivian justice follows politics, 54 years old. This is the maximum sentence established by Bolivian legislation for the “competition” —the interrelationship— of both crimes, which considered separately carry lesser penalties. After the argument of the accusing party, the final hearing of the process against Añez was postponed until Tuesday. The one who was leader of the Bolivian Government between November 2019 and October 2020 is following the trial from prison, since the judges have prohibited her transfer to the courtroom. This is supposed to be due to the difficulties of controlling demonstrations for her and against her.
“They are trying to force the sentence,” said Añez’s defender, lawyer Luis Guillén, who until the last moment has been filing appeals before the Constitutional Court to prevent the process from coming to an end. Guillén described this trial as “express” because it has only lasted one year, which in Bolivia is a record in the case of a criminal matter. Several personalities from the Bolivian opposition denounced that the rush of the ruling party to quickly obtain a sentence, which was a promise of President Luis Arce in the electoral campaign, has led to cutting the procedural rights of the former president. The defense denounced, for example, that the First Sentencing Court of La Paz, which acts as a judge, determined what evidence and witnesses Añez and the two former military chiefs who are also accused together with her could present, thus preventing the consideration of the case. context of the facts being judged.
The process is unanimously rejected by the opposition for being carried out in an ordinary court and not in the Supreme Court of Justice, within the framework of a trial of responsibilities against a former president. To circumvent Añez’s constitutional jurisdiction, the prosecution divided the crimes of which he is accused into several groups and requested separate trials for each of them. Then he focused on one of these processes, which evaluated two crimes that Añez allegedly committed in the moments prior to her swearing in and that are not the most serious alleged against her. According to the defense of the former president, this division of crimes into several parts is contrary to the principles of law.
Initially, this legal stratagem was interpreted as a means to prosecute Añez, although the ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS) did not have the two-thirds of parliamentary votes it needed to begin a trial of responsibilities. Subsequently, the figure was reversed and the defendant herself asked the opposition parties with legislative representation to authorize her prosecution as her former president. So it was the MAS that preferred to stick to the initial procedure and continue through ordinary channels. Thus, the prosecution of the more than 30 murders and other serious human rights violations that were committed during the Añez government, which can only be dealt with in a parliamentary trial, was set aside or postponed.
In this process, two versions of what happened between November 10, 2019, when Evo Morales resigned from the presidency, and Añez’s oath to this position, on November 12, were confronted. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, in those days, and dispensing with a meeting of the Legislative Assembly, Añez, who was then the second vice president of the Senate and the only opposition politician with an important parliamentary position, acted as if she were in charge of the country, disregarding the procedures which are the usual ones when a president resigns. According to the accusers, Añez “self-proclaimed” ruler of the country in a legislative meeting that did not have the quorum necessary.
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The defense of the former president and the political forces that supported her government in 2019 is that there was then a “power vacuum” after the resignation of the president, the vice president and also the presidents of the chambers of deputies and senators, all They belonged to Morales’ MAS, so an “ipso facto” succession was applied that replaced the resigners with the first authority with the highest remaining rank, which was Añez. This opinion was supported at that time by a press release from the Constitutional Court, which was subsequently retracted, when the MAS had already returned to power. According to the opposition, the “ipso facto” succession to avoid a power vacuum made the parliamentary treatment of Morales’ resignation unnecessary and also that there was a proclamation by the Assembly with the legal quorum.