Blood-drenched Bolivian coup leader in prison

Photo: Demonstration in Fresno, California in solidarity with the Bolivian people’s struggle against the coup

Bolivian coup leader and former self-proclaimed president Jeanine Áñez was arrested on March 13 in the department of Beni. She was found hiding in a box to avoid detection from authorities. On March 15, Áñez made her first appearance in front of a judge via video. She was officially charged with sedition, terrorism and conspiracy due to her involvement in the November 2019 U.S.-backed coup to oust Bolivia’s democratically elected and first Indigenous president — Evo Morales of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party. Bolivia’s Prosecutor’s Office requested six months of pretrial detention for Áñez as she poses a flight risk. 

Justice Minister Ivan Lima reported the next day on the initiation of four trials against Áñez and pending charges for massacres that took place in the towns of Sacaba and Senkata. Áñez’s former ministers Alvaro Coimbra and Rodrigo Guzman also face criminal charges.

During Áñez’s coup-born tenure as interim president, Bolivians experienced massive repression and violence against Indigenous communities and former MAS leaders. This includes the public torture and violent removal of then-mayor of Vinto, Patricia Arce. When Arce refused to denounce MAS, she was beaten mercilessly, doused with gasoline and red paint, and sexually assaulted after being made to walk four miles barefoot. Many other MAS party members in office faced similar repression and forced resignations. 

Perhaps the most heinous acts committed under Áñez’s rule were the Sacaba and Senkata massacres in 2019. During the Sacaba massacre on November 15, Bolivian security forces fired tear gas canisters and live bullets into a peaceful anti-coup march led by the Indigenous and peasant communities of Cochabamba. A few days later, tanks and heavily armed Bolivian soldiers attacked, again with tear gas and live ammunition, peaceful anti-coup protesters who were blockading the Senkata gas plant. Over 30 people were murdered in these two massacres, and hundreds injured.

But Áñez’s brutality could not defeat the Bolivian people’s overwhelming resistance to her coup-born regime. Massive protests continued and the struggle culminated in the landslide victory of the former economy minister under Morales, Luis Arce. The MAS triumph signaled the return of democracy in Bolivia, and an overwhelming victory of the Bolivian people against the U.S.-backed right wing. Now the new government is rightfully bringing justice for those who died at the hands of the Áñez regime. Her arrest is the first step toward justice.

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