Sunday 8 December 2019

Bolivia's interim government charges former president Evo Morales with sedition and terrorism

A man attending the funeral procession of eight supporters of Bolivia's ex-President Evo Morales, killed when security forces lifted a siege on a fuel plant, throws a tear gas canister back at riot police, in La Paz on November 21, 2019. Photo by JORGE BERNAL / AFP
A man attending the funeral procession of eight supporters of Bolivia's ex-President Evo Morales, killed when security forces lifted a siege on a fuel plant, throws a tear gas canister back at riot police, in La Paz on November 21, 2019. Photo by JORGE BERNAL / AFP

Daniel Ramos

Bolivia's interim government has filed a criminal complaint against former President Evo Morales for alleged sedition and terrorism, the interior minister said, as authorities began probes of his allies that they accuse of corruption and fomenting unrest.

Interim President Jeanine Anez, a former senator and opponent of Morales, has faced a wave of demonstrations by his supporters since taking office in a power vacuum last week.

Morales and his vice president stepped down under pressure from security forces and anti-government protesters on November 10, amid reports of irregularities in the October 20 election. Morales fled to Mexico and says he was toppled in a coup.

At least 29 have been killed in clashes since he resigned.

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Bolivia's interim President Jeanine Anez. Photo by Jorge Bernal / AFP
Bolivia's interim President Jeanine Anez. Photo by Jorge Bernal / AFP

READ MORE: UN urges talks to end Bolivia crisis amid rising death toll

Interior Minister Arturo Murillo said he asked the public prosecutor's office to open an investigation into Morales, based on audio in which, from Mexico, Morales allegedly directed plans for road blockades in Bolivia to destabilize the interim government.

Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the audio, which was played to reporters at a news conference earlier this week. Morales' former health minister, Gabriela Montano, called the audio "fake."

Murillo told journalists outside the prosecutors' office in La Paz: "The evidence is clear. We've presented it."

Morales could not immediately be reached for comment. He said on Twitter that authorities should be investigating the death of protesters instead of going after him on the basis of what he described as fake evidence.

READ MORE: Eight killed in violence amid Bolivia’s political crisis

Hundreds of people join a funeral procession for the victims killed during clashes with police at the Senkata fuel plant on November 21, 2019 in La Paz, Bolivia. Photo by Gaston Brito Miserocchi/Getty Images
Hundreds of people join a funeral procession for the victims killed during clashes with police at the Senkata fuel plant on November 21, 2019 in La Paz, Bolivia. Photo by Gaston Brito Miserocchi/Getty Images

It was unclear if prosecutors would investigate Morales or eventually file charges. The attorney general's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Blocking roads is a common form of protest in Bolivia and much of South America, though intense blockades by Morales supporters in the past week have cut off fuel and food to some cities.

Authorities have transported some 1,400 tonnes of food by plane in less than a week to the cities of La Paz, El Alto, Oruro and Sucre due to blockades, Productive Development Minister Wilfredo Rojo told journalists on Friday.

Anez pleaded with protesters to end an ongoing blockade at a natural gas plant that supplies La Paz. Eight people died in clashes after the military forcibly cleared access to it briefly on Tuesday.

"I ask for reflection from brothers who are carrying out this unnecessary blockade," Anez said at the presidential palace on Friday. "We're all Bolivians. You can't punish the city of La Paz."

READ MORE: Bolivian Senate head Jeanine Anez declares herself president

Anez reiterated that she will only stay in power long enough for there to be new elections. But her critics say her cabinet have overstepped the bounds of a caretaker government by making changes to foreign policy and threatening to punish Morales' allies.

Under Anez, authorities have alleged that several of Morales' allies have taken part in criminal activity, including the former culture minister, the former vice president's brother, and the vice president of his Movement to Socialism (MAS) political party.

Murillo said on Friday that he was also asking prosecutors to investigate Morales' former presidency minister, Juan Ramon Quintana, for sedition and terrorism for allegedly telling a news outlet that Bolivia would become a modern Vietnam. Reuters could not verify the accuracy of his quoted comments or immediately reach him for a response.

A lawyer affiliated with opponents of Morales, Jorge Valda, said he planned to ask authorities to issue an arrest warrant for Morales' 25-year-old daughter, Evaliz Morales, on Tuesday for alleged sedition and corruption.

Evaliz could not immediately be reached for comment.

READ MORE: Morales reaches exile in Mexico after fleeing Bolivia

Reuters

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