La Paz (AFP), March 13 – Conservative Senator Jeanine Anez was unknown to many Bolivians before stepping onto the balcony of the government palace in November 2019, Bible in hand.
A longtime critic of her leftist predecessor Evo Morales, she stepped into the presidential vacuum left by his resignation and fled the country during violent post-election protests.
On Friday, no longer being president and having spent more than a year in pre-trial detention, Anez was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
His crime: an alleged plot – dismissed as fictitious by many – to oust Morales.
The charges came despite Anez overseeing new elections and relinquishing the presidency a year later to Luis Arce of Morales’ MAS party, who took power in the October 2020 vote.
“I congratulate the winners and ask them to govern with Bolivia and democracy in mind,” she said at the time.
In March 2021, with Morales back in the country and his MAS party in power, Anez was arrested on sedition and terrorism charges for what the government claims was a coup attempt against him.
“I denounce before Bolivia and the world that in an act of abuse and political persecution, the MAS government has ordered my arrest,” Anez said on Twitter at the time.
“They accuse me of participating in a coup that never happened. My prayers for Bolivia and for all Bolivians.
In pretrial detention, she went on a hunger strike more than once. His trial began in mid-February.
Friday’s sentence of 10 years in a La Paz women’s prison stems from crimes “unconstitutional and derelict of duty” on charges relating to her time as a senator, before becoming president.
Anez still faces charges in another pending case for sedition and other charges related to his short presidential term.
– Second female president of Bolivia –
As second vice president of the Senate, Anez assumed the presidency in 2019 two days after Morales, a friend of Cuba and Venezuela, resigned after 14 years in office.
Morales fled to Mexico after three weeks of violent unrest following elections in which he sought an unconstitutional fourth term. As the opposition grew, he lost the support of the armed forces.
Anez took over as Bolivia’s 66th president – and his second wife in the role – after all other officials vying to act as interim president fled.
Faced with an uprising by Morales’ supporters, she called in the police and the army to restore order.
The post-election conflict has claimed around 35 lives, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
In January 2020, Anez announced her candidacy for president, sparking criticism from opponents and allies who claimed she was going back on her word to just run until new elections were held.
The coronavirus epidemic came to Bolivia under his watch in March 2020, and with it, accusations of corruption in the acquisition of ventilators from Spain.
Anez blamed his health minister and fired him.
In September, she withdrew from the presidential race as opinion polls predicted certain defeat.
– Senator “coup” –
Upon taking office as president, Anez vowed to “pacify the country”. But Morales immediately called her a “putschist right-wing senator”.
She had “declared herself… interim president without a legislative quorum, surrounded by a group of accomplices,” he said at the time.
After learning of the warrant for her arrest, Anez claimed she had been the victim of lies and defended her “constitutional” accession to power in 2019, which she said was necessitated by “electoral fraud”. .
The 54-year-old former lawyer and TV presenter served from 2006 to 2008 as a member of an assembly that drafted Bolivia’s constitution. She has been a senator since 2010.
She is a member of a minority conservative political group, Democratic Unity, and became the second vice-president of the Senate, in keeping with the tradition of all parties being represented in the highest positions.
A proud Christian, Anez posed with a purple Bible during her swearing-in ceremony, seeking to distinguish herself from Morales – a socialist who had done away with religious oaths.
“God allowed the Bible to come back into the (presidential) palace. May he bless us,” she said.
Anez lived in the city of Trinidad, capital of the Amazon department of Beni, where she was arrested.