Photo: Nov. 11, 2019 demonstration against the coup in Washington, D.C. Credit — ANSWER Coalition
Powerful U.S. figures are rushing to the defense of former Bolivian dictator Jeanine Añez after she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her involvement in a 2019 U.S.-backed military coup. Añez declared herself “interim president” following the ouster of democratically-elected president Evo Morales by far-right paramilitary gangs and the armed forces.
Now, right wing political forces in Bolivia and around the world are outlandishly trying to portray her conviction as an act of political persecution. Major corporate media outlets are attempting to build sympathy for Añez, with the New York Times for instance reporting that her conviction raised “concerns about politicians’ use of the justice system to target opponents.”
Añez and six other defendants including members of the police and military high command were convicted June 10 of crimes including “breach of duties” and “resolutions contrary to the constitution and the law” – essentially for gross violations of the Bolivian constitution. Añez will also face subsequent trials for other crimes committed against the Bolivian people. She was arrested in March of last year after mass protests led to an overwhelming victory for Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism party in elections won by current President Luis Arce.
During her regime, atrocities including massacres of protesters, anti-Indigenous racist violence, and attempts to rig new elections were carried out. Añez’s supporters publicly burned the Indigenous Wiphala flag – which became an official national symbol during Morales’ presidency – in public displays of racist hatred and coup-supporting police removed and burned the Wiphala patch from uniforms. This was an expression of their support for the return to rule of the European-descended elite who had been in power before Morales’s presidency – which saw the wealth from the country’s natural resources diverted towards the needs of the Bolivian people instead of lining the pockets of U.S.-based corporations.
A group of six U.S. senators – including sworn enemy of the Latin American left Marco Rubio – have rejected the conviction, claiming that the decision to sentence the former president was “arbitrary” and laughably stating that it “undermines the democratic norms and puts into question Bolivia’s fragile democracy.”
Rubio’s concerns for “democratic principles” did not apply to the 2019 coup that forced President Morales from office and into exile in Argentina then Mexico. Nor did it apply to the violent suppression of innocent people protesting the coup during Añez’s time in power. In the first week of her tenure, Añez signed a decree that guaranteed impunity for the armed forces during the “re-establishment of order”.
On November 15 and 19, heavily armed security forces massacred over 20 people who were peacefully protesting the coup in the towns of Sacaba and Senkata and injured hundreds using helicopters, tanks, tear gas and live bullets. Thousands were arrested in a campaign of repression targeting people’s movements and the Movement Towards Socialism party.
The families of victims of the coup have been demanding justice. Many rallied outside the court during the proceedings.
In protesting the court’s decision, Rubio and others in the U.S. political and media establishment place themselves on the wrong side of history. Excusing and obscuring the coup regime’s atrocities, they are expressing their determination to continue undermining Bolivian sovereignty on behalf of Wall Street. However, their attempts have so far failed in the face of Bolivians’ determination to defend their democracy and independence.