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LatinNews Daily - 07 July 2020

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BOLIVIA: Attorney general issues Morales terror charge

On 6 July, Bolivia’s attorney general’s office formally accused former president Evo Morales (2006-2019) of terrorism, and requested that he be put in preventative detention.

Analysis:

Morales left Bolivia in November 2019, shortly after being removed from power following allegations of fraud relating to the annulled elections the month before. Bolivia’s interim government holds Morales primarily responsible for inciting the violent protests that followed his departure, but efforts to prosecute him were first undermined by him being granted refugee status in Argentina, and then by the suspension of judicial activities in light of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Yesterday’s formal accusation reflects the interim government’s renewed efforts to target Morales, and his Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party more generally, and will deepen concerns that interim president Jeanine Áñez – a presidential candidate in the delayed election, scheduled for 6 September – is putting pressure on the judiciary for political purposes.

  • An arrest warrant was issued for Morales in December 2019, for crimes of terrorism and sedition, in relation to an audio clip in which he allegedly instructs a supporter to organise blockades to interrupt food supplies to various Bolivian cities. In February, the clip was sent to Colombia’s attorney general’s office for verification, which alleged there was a “high probability” that the voice in question was Morales's.
  • However, Interpol twice rejected the requests by Bolivia's attorney general Juan Lanchipa for an international arrest warrant to be issued against Morales. Lanchipa yesterday appealed for Argentina to support the extradition process, but President Alberto Fernández has a rocky relationship with Bolivia’s interim government, reportedly leaving last week’s virtual meeting of the Southern Common Market (Mercosur) regional trade bloc just as Áñez began to speak.
  • Most prosecutions in Bolivia have been suspended since March due to the pandemic, but the interim government has been appealing for some time for the case against Morales (as well as those against the MAS more broadly, including a corruption case involving its presidential candidate Luis Arce) to get back on track.
  • Foreign Minister Karen Longaric last week accused Morales of seeking to destabilise Bolivia by “disseminating fake news” and “summoning irregular armed militias […] with the complicity of the [Venezuelan] Nicolás Maduro regime”.

Looking Ahead: MAS deputy Sonia Brito condemned Longaric’s comments as a “desperate” attempt to undermine the MAS’s electoral prospects ahead of the upcoming vote.