(Update 1: updates with ex president’s arrest)
La Paz, Mar 12 (efe-epa).- Bolivian authorities confirmed early on Saturday that they had arrested former interim president Jeanine Áñez as part of a probe into the alleged 2019 coup against Evo Morales.
The Minister of Government Eduardo Del Castillo Carpio confirmed Áñez’s arrest on his Facebook account in the early hours of Saturday after she was apprehended in the city of Trindad in the Beni province and taken to the airport ahead of being brought to capital La Paz.
Prosecutors had on Friday issued an arrest warrant against the former president on charges of “sedition and terrorism” linked to the 2019 political crisis in which Morales was ousted from the presidency.
“I denounce to Bolivia and the world that in an act of harassment and political persecution, the MAS government has ordered my arrest. It accuses me of participating in a coup that never took place. My prayers for Bolivia and all Bolivians,” Áñez tweeted at 1.48 am on Saturday, minutes after her arrest.
Prosecutors also issued warrants against several ex-military officers and former ministers of the Áñez administration: Arturo Murillo (minister of government), Yerko Núñez (minister of presidency), Fernando López (defense), Álvaro Guzmán (energy) and Álvaro Coímbra (justice), with the latter two being arrested in the city of Trinidad on Friday.
Since Friday evening, police officers and prosecutors had been stationed outside Áñez’s residence in Trinidad, situated in the Amazonian province of Beni, to proceed with the arrest.
Local media outlets reported that the police had entered Áñez’s house by breaking the door and apparently seized multiple documents.
The arrest warrants come after December 2020 when Lidia Patty, a former lawmaker of the ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS), filed a complaint against opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho, his father José Luis Camacho and former commanders of the armed forces and Bolivian police.
From Trinidad airport, the former interim justice minister and energy minister under Áñez were taken Friday night to El Alto airport in La Paz in a Bolivian Air Force plane.
The former officials were taken under heavy police guard to the facilities of the forensic research institute and later to the public prosecutors’ office, where their statements were to be recorded.
Guzmán said at the airport that the arrest amounted to “harassment and kidnapping” and that it took him by surprise as he had not been notified of the judicial process.
The former chief of staff of the armed forces, Flavio Arce, voluntarily surrendered before the authorities and on Friday was sent to preventive custody for six months in San Pedro prison in La Paz.
On Thursday, prosecutors also issued arrest warrants against the former commander-in-chief of the Bolivian armed forces, Williams Kaliman, and other former top military officers, along with former police chief Yuri Calderón.
There was tension at Coímbra’s residence during his arrest as well as at the house of Núñez’s mother – where the police arrived but failed to find him – with family members complaining of excessive use of force.
Even at the heavily guarded Trinidad airport, scuffles were witnessed between officers and family members of the former ministers being taken to La Paz.
Other sections of the Bolivian opposition also criticized the “process of persecution” by the MAS government, and accused Evo Morales and the government of President Luis Arce of acting like “tyrants.” EFE-EPA