In emotional letter from jail, Bolivian ex-president Anez alleges 'abuse'

Danny Ramos and Monica Machicao
·4 min read
FILE PHOTO: Bolivia's former interim President Anez is detained in La Paz

By Danny Ramos and Monica Machicao

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia's jailed former president Jeanine Anez has penned a lengthy and emotional letter to the country's citizens insisting she came to power legitimately, not in a coup as prosecutors allege, and that her rights are being violated in detention.

The seven-page letter, posted on her Twitter profile and scrawled in blue biro on the torn-out pages of a notepad, bears Anez's name, signature and national identity number but is undated. A source close to Anez confirmed to Reuters that she had written it.

The letter is the latest twist in a political saga that began when longtime leftist former President Evo Morales was ousted from power in 2019 after a disputed election.

Anez, then a conservative lawmaker and deputy senate leader, took the helm of a one-year interim government but was arrested two weeks ago on charges she helped foment a coup against Morales.

In the letter, she alleges "abusive" treatment of her and her family by the police, who detained her in a dawn raid on March 13, and by the state, which she said has refused to provide her with proper medical treatment since she was jailed.

"This is a fight for democracy and we will keep going until the end," wrote Anez, vehemently denying the accusations against her.

A government spokesman did not respond to a Reuters request for comment on Anez's allegations. A police spokesman declined to comment.

Prosecutors accuse Anez of illegitimately seizing power after Morales resigned following the 2019 election that he won, but which international observers said was fraudulent and which triggered violent protests.

They allege that Anez and her allies, including security force chiefs, threatened those before her in the line of succession to step aside for her to become interim president.

In her letter, she insists that those individuals had not wanted to take responsibility for restoring stability.

"Those who resigned rather than take charge of a country in flames where people were calling for civil war, were they not cowards??" she wrote.

The three people in line to assume office before Anez - former Vice President Alvaro García Linera, former senate president Adriana Salvatierra, and former house of deputies president Victor Borda - did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

All three were Morales allies who resigned alongside or shortly after Morales, saying in statements at the time that they had received unspecified harassment and death threats.

'ARMED TO THE TEETH'

Anez said in her letter that more than 100 police officers had arrived at her home in the city of Trinidad to detain her "armed to the teeth." The incident had left young members of her family "in a state of shock," she said. Reuters has not been to verify the details of her arrest.

The 53-year-old, who family members say suffers from hypertension, said the state was jeopardizing her health. Last week, she fell ill and a judge ruled that she should be transferred to a hospital. That has not yet happened, according to her lawyer.

She said she wanted to be treated by independent medics rather than those sent to the prison. "I don't trust the government doctors," she wrote.

Anez's lawyer, Ariel Coronado, told Reuters on Tuesday that the state had agreed for a cardiologist to visit her in prison.

He said Anez was "depressed."

"The whole weight of the state is against her and that would affect anyone," he said.

Anez's administration took Bolivia in a sharply different direction to Morales and had itself leveled terrorism accusations against the leftist, detaining some members of his government.

At least 33 people were killed in violence that followed the election, 30 of them after Anez took office and passed a law giving security forces broad discretion in the use of force.

The detention of Anez and two of her ministers under the new government of President Luis Arce, a Morales ally voted into office in an October landslide, has brought criticism from human rights groups and calls from global powers for due process to be followed.

The Bolivian government insists it is seeking justice.

(Reporting by Aislinn Laing; editing by Dan Flynn and Rosalba O'Brien)