Bolivia opposition call march to demand release of ex-president

La Paz (AFP) –


Bolivia's opposition have called for demonstrations against left-wing President Luis Arce to demand the release of former head of state Jeanine Anez and an end to "political persecution".

The powerful Santa Cruz Civic Committee, a regional movement of business leaders and social organizations, called for a "big march" on Sunday and a national strike the following day.

Right-wing former Bolivian presidents Carlos Mesa and Jorge Quiroga and the governor of the rich eastern region of Santa Cruz also joined the call.

The opposition is demanding the government "put an end to political persecution" over a "false coup" and release political prisoners, Santa Cruz Civic Committee president Romulo Calvo said on Monday.

Former interim president Anez has been in prison since March, accused of allegedly leading a coup in 2019 to oust then-president Evo Morales.

Conservative Anez came to power in November 2019 after Morales resigned and fled the country following weeks of violent protests over his controversial re-election to an unconstitutional fourth term.

Anez, as the most senior parliamentarian left, was sworn in as interim president, but her political opponents denounced the move as a coup.

Under Anez's administration, Bolivia held peaceful, transparent elections in October 2020, in which Morales's leftist protege Luis Arce won a landslide victory.

Arce then vowed to pursue those he accused of staging a coup.

Anez was arrested in March this year and was more recently also charged with "genocide" over protesters' deaths during violence between supporters and opponents of Morales -- as well as between protesters and the security forces -- that left 37 people dead in November 2019.

The accusation relates to two incidents in which 22 people died just days after she became president in what a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights described as "massacres."

Anez also faces charges of terrorism, sedition and conspiracy.

Her detention has sparked widespread international condemnation.

For his part, Morales has called for his supporters to march on La Paz from a nearby town next Tuesday.

"On October 12 there will be a great mobilization," he said Sunday.