Bolivian judge places opposition leader in pre-trial detention | Courts News

Members of the conservative opposition have accused the government of silencing dissidents as tensions continue to rise.

A judge in Bolivia has sentenced opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho to four months in prison before trial amid rising tensions in the country.

Judge Sergio Pacheco ordered the detention of Camacho, the governor of the country’s Santa Cruz region, on terrorism accusations in a hearing on Friday. Camacho was transferred to a prison 25 kilometers from the capital La Paz shortly thereafter.

Speaking during a virtual hearing held at La Paz police station, Camacho made a defiant note that he would “never give up this fight for Bolivia’s democracy”.

Prosecutors have alleged that Camacho played a key role in the political unrest in Bolivia following the 2019 elections, which led to the forced removal of left-wing President Evo Morales whom some have described is a right-wing coup.

Groups such as the Organization of American States (OAS) allege that the elections were rigged, and protesters took to the streets to demonstrate that 37 people were killed and led to the formation of a right-wing faction. Jeanine Anez serve as interim president.

Morales was the first member of Bolivia’s large indigenous community to become president. After he was removed, some natives feared their rights would be affected and accused Anez of anti-Indigenous racism.

Subsequent investigations cast doubt on allegations of fraud used to justify Anez’s installation, and Morales’s Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party won a resounding victory in the 2020 election, raising MAS candidate Luis Arce to the presidency.

The split has existed ever since. While Morales and his allies said that capture Camacho As a step toward accountability for what they describe as a violent coup, members of the opposition have accused the government of using the courts to suppress dissidents.

Deysi Choque, a lawmaker for the MAS, called the ruling “an act of justice for the victims who still cry over their loved ones who died in the coup”.

Former President Carlos Mesa took to social media to criticize what he called the “violent and illegal kidnapping” of Camacho.

Tensions were high and protests broke out in November in the Santa Cruz area over the government’s decision delay the census until 2024.

Members of the conservative opposition have said the delay is politically motivated and have predicted that the census will bring more representation and tax revenue to the area, a bastion of conservative opposition.

The government has cited complications stemming from COVID-19, including Bolivia’s indigenous languages ​​and the fact that many workers travel in November to harvest sugar cane.

Camacho was jailed after he refused to appear before prosecutors to answer questions and was charged with helping lead a 36-day strike in Santa Cruz against the government.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was concerned about the situation in Bolivia and called for “maximum restraint by all political and social actors”.

Trucks block a road as part of a "general strike" after the detention of opposition Santa Cruz governor Luis Fernando Camacho
Trucks block roads as part of a ‘general strike’ following the arrest of Santa Cruz opposition governor Luis Fernando Camacho, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia [Lesly Moyano/Reuters]


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