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A Bolivian court sentenced former President Jeanine Añez to 10 years in prison following allegations that she illegally took over the presidency in 2019 in a coup, in a case that has raised concerns about the country’s judicial independence, the New York Times reported.
The court convicted Añez on charges of breaching her duties and enacting resolutions against Bolivia’s Constitution. She denied the allegations and said she was a victim of “political persecution.” Her lawyers also reiterated that the trial was politically motivated and said they would appeal the verdict.
The former conservative senator came to the forefront in November 2019 when former socialist President Evo Morales fled the country amid mass protests. At the time, Morales was attempting to secure his fourth term in an election many observers said was marred by fraud, the Washington Post noted.
Añez initially said she would only act as interim president and hold new polls in which she would not run. But soon after, she reshaped Bolivia’s foreign policy and charged Morales with sedition and terrorism. Many human rights advocates questioned whether the charges were politically motivated, a charge she denied.
She lost popularity, meanwhile, amid accusations of human rights violations, mishandling the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying economic disruption.
Añez dropped her bid for the presidency about a month before the October 2020 election, when voters picked Morales-backed socialist Luis Arce.
Observers said her sentencing underscores a victory for Arce’s government and the long-held narrative that Añez’s rise to power was a coup.
Still, they cautioned that her conviction puts into question the independence of Bolivia’s justice system. They added that similar to Añez, Morales had manipulated the judicial system for political ends.