Bolivia’s former interim president, Jeanine Áñez, late on Friday was convicted by a court of leading an alleged coup that deposed her left-wing predecessor, and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment after a closely watched trial.
The 54-year-old Áñez was convicted of violating the constitution and “dereliction of duty,” according to Reuters. She has denied all wrongdoing and plans to appeal. Áñez left office after Luis Arce, who had been Morales’s finance minister, won the presidency in a landslide in late 2020. Áñez dropped out of that race due to poor polling and has been in detention for about a year.
“I have been accused of crimes that I have not committed, that were invented,” she said in testimony on Friday. “I had the government, but I never had power … it was simply a transitional government.”
In reality, Áñez replaced Bolivia’s top military brass, Morales’s cabinet ministers and heads of major state-owned enterprises within days of coming to power. Her government also jailed and prosecuted many left-wing critics and was accused of enacting the “politics of revenge.”
But Bolivians remain divided on the question of whether Áñez’s rise to the presidency was, in fact, a coup. And her treatment since being detained has also raised charges of retribution by her opponents.
Áñez’s mental and physical health has deteriorated in jail and she slit her wrists after being charged separately with genocide, prompting the European Union and the United States to urge the government to safeguard her well-being.
She was not allowed to participate in her defense in court, instead following the trial from prison. Earlier this week, her family said that she had been forced to attend the hearings while sedated with medicine.
The centrist former president Carlos Mesa, who was a losing candidate in the 2020 election, has criticized how the trial was conducted and urged international observers to intervene.
“The crimes for which Áñez was convicted, dereliction of duty and taking decisions contrary to the law, are very broadly defined in Bolivian law,” said Human Rights Watch researcher César Muñoz on Twitter. “They were misused by the Evo Morales government and the Áñez government in criminal cases that appeared to be politically motivated.”
He urged a higher tribunal to review the evidence and examine if Áñez’s rights were violated.
Herrero reported from Caracas, Venezuela, and Ang from Seoul. Samantha Schmidt contributed to this report.