Bolivia’s rightwing caretaker government is abusing the justice system to wage a politically motivated witch-hunt against former president Evo Morales and his allies, a new report by Human Rights Watch claims.
The US-backed administration of Jeanine Áñez – who became interim leader after Morales was forced into exile last November – of overseeing a legal offensive against more than 100 people linked to Bolivia’s first indigenous president. The group claimed prosecutors had charged some Morales backers with terrorism for simply speaking to him on the phone.
José Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch’s Americas director, said Áñez’s government was trying to give a facade of legality to a campaign against political foes.
“The interim government is using the justice system as a weapon against Morales for political reasons,” he said. “The whole idea of using the judicial system to persecute Morales and his allies with ludicrous charges such as terrorism comes from the top.”
With five weeks to the election, polls suggest the candidate for Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (Mas) party, Luis Arce, leads with 26.2% of intended votes. In second with 17.1% is the centre-right former president Carlos Mesa. Áñez, who has been widely criticised for running after publicly committing not to, trails in third with 10.4%.
“Bolivia is in the most precarious condition it has been in for 30 years,” said Jim Shultz, founder of the Bolivia-focused Democracy Centre. “It’s a very precarious political moment, on top of a really tragic public health crisis, and a very difficult economic moment. Bolivia had many years of good steady economic growth … Now, it’s in economic crisis, public health crisis and political crisis all at once.” Shultz said Bolivia had needed moderate interim leaders to unite citizens and organize fresh and fair elections. “Instead, what they got was a rightwing, ideological government that took corruption and incompetence to new heights just when the country needed stable government the most with the virus.”