US questions legality of Bolivian arrests of ex-officials

FILE in this March 13, 2021 file photo, standing behind bars, Bolivia's former interim President Jeanine Anez speaks to an unidentified woman at a police station jailhouse, in La Paz, Bolivia. The United States said Saturday, March 27, 2021, that it is concerned about increasingly anti-democratic behavior and the politicization of the legal system in Bolivia following the arrests of officials from the countrys former interim government. (AP Photo/Juan Karita, File) (Juan Karita, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LA PAZ – The United States said Saturday that it is concerned about increasingly ″anti-democratic behavior and the politicization of the legal system” in Bolivia following the arrests of officials from the country’s former interim government.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that there are questions about the legality of the arrests and urged Bolivia to release the detainees pending “an independent and transparent inquiry into human rights and due process concerns.”

Blinken said the arrests threaten to undermine democracy in Bolivia, which held national elections in October. He noted that the European Union, the Bolivian Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as Bolivian and international human rights organizations, had also expressed concerns.

This month, a Bolivian judge ordered former interim president Jeanine Áñez held for four months in preventative detention following her arrest on charges linked to the 2019 ouster of leader Evo Morales, which his supporters consider a coup.

Prosecutors accuse Áñez, who assumed the presidency following Morales’ resignation and exile, of terrorism and sedition for unrest that led to his ouster. She has called her detention an “abuse,” denying that a coup took place.

The judge also ordered four months of preventative arrest for two of her former ministers.

Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism won last year’s elections with 55% of the vote under Morales’ chosen candidate Luis Arce, who took the presidency in November. Áñez had dropped out after plunging in the polls.