Bolivia president vows to punish 'coup' accused

La Paz (AFP) –


Bolivia President Luis Arce vowed in a lively parliamentary session Friday to work tirelessly to punish those accused by the government of an alleged coup in 2019, when former leader Evo Morales lost power.

"We won't cease... to demand the processing and punishment of those responsible for the coup d'etat," said Arce during an event to mark the founding of Bolivia on August 6, 1825.

He also claimed there were "international accomplices."

Leftist Morales resigned as president in November 2019 after weeks of protests against his re-election to an unconstitutional fourth term.

The then-leader of the Movement for Socialism party that has dominated Bolivian politics for more than 15 years, quit after losing the support of the military following an Organization of American States (OAS) audit that found clear evidence of fraud in his re-election.

Conservative Jeanine Anez assumed the interim presidency, as she was the highest ranking government official not to have resigned.

She retained that role until new elections, which had been twice postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, were organized a year later.

- 'Illegitimate and violent acts' -

Those who provoked the fall of Morales, "must respond to the courts for the illegal, illegitimate and violent acts perpetrated against the people, democracy and the political constitution of the state," said Arce, who also represents MAS.

He was referring to clashes between MAS supporters and security forces following the resignation of Morales.

Thirty-five people have died in total in clashes between MAS supporters and opponents following the 2019 election.

Centrist former president Carlos Mesa hit out at Arce on social media for pandering to Morales "and his obsession to seek power at any cost."

In February, the MAS-dominated congress gave political amnesty to those prosecuted for acts of violence in the chaos that followed the election.

Anez and several of her interim ministers, as well as ex-military and police chiefs, have been detained since March, as the government seeks to have them prosecuted for the alleged coup.

Just before her arrest, Anez tweeted: "The political persecution has begun."

The government claims regional right-wing allies of Anez, such as Ecuador's then-president Lenin Moreno (2017-2021) and Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) of Argentina, had sent weapons to Bolivia.

They also claim the European Union, Catholic Church and former Bolivian presidents Mesa (2003-2005) and conservative Jorge Quiroga (2001-2002) were part of a conspiracy to oust Morales and replace him with Anez.

The EU has rejected the accusation.

Anez, a former senator, only took power because the vice-president and presidents of both houses of congress -- all MAS party members -- had also resigned.

The parliamentary session on Friday was interrupted several times by rival politicians shouting at each other.

The day before had seen fresh clashes between government supporters and opponents in La Paz.