Bolivian prosecutors suspend Camacho’s hearing in coup case following death threats

The governor of the Santa Cruz department, Luis Fernando Camacho, who was the president of the far-right Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee in 2019, was one of the main promoters of the violent and racist demonstrations against the socialist government of former President Evo Morales in October 2019

July 13, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Image: Abya Yala Digital

Bolivian prosecutors investigating the ‘Coup d’état I’ case announced on Monday, July 11 that they suspended the hearing of right-wing leader Luis Fernando Camacho after receiving death threats. The governor of the Santa Cruz department was set to testify on Tuesday July 12 over his involvement in the October 2019 coup d’état against the government of Evo Morales.

Anti-corruption prosecutor Carmelo Laura told local media that on Monday morning, the members of the Prosecutor’s Office received anonymous threatening phone calls. “The commission of prosecutors has suffered a series of very serious threats…so we are going to suspend the audience organized with Mr. Luis Fernando Camacho Vaca. The prosecutors fear for their lives,” said prosecutor Laura.

With regard to the rescheduling of the hearing, he said that the La Paz Prosecutor’s Office was already aware of this situation and that the decision on rescheduling would be made in the city of La Paz, after the threats received are analyzed and due actions are taken on the matter.

The commission of prosecutors traveled from the capital La Paz to the department of Santa Cruz to take statements of Governor Luis Fernando Camacho Vaca and his father José Luis Camacho Parada. They are being investigated for the crimes of “conspiracy, sedition and terrorism” for their involvement in the US-backed right-wing civic-military coup that overthrew democratically elected socialist president Evo Morales in November 2019.

Luis Fernando Camacho, who was the president of the far-right Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee in 2019, was one of the main promoters of the violent and racist demonstrations against the Morales government. In October 2019, during the post-elections conflict, he came to La Paz with members of his organization to demand Morales’ resignation despite the rejection of popular sectors that demanded respect for democracy and the Constitution.

In a video released on social media networks, months following the coup, he was seen addressing a group of people, saying that his father had coordinated with the military and police to ensure that the anti-Morales protests were not repressed.

In November 2020, following the restoration of democracy in Bolivia, former deputy of the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party Lidia Patty filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office against Santa Cruz’s governor and his father, accusing them of terrorism, sedition and conspiracy. In March 2021, the lawsuit was extended to former de-facto president Jeanine Áñez, who was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison in the ‘Coup d’état II’ case for “breach of duties” and “resolutions contrary to the Constitution and the Law” when she illegally assumed the presidency of the country, as well as to former military and police chiefs. Recently, Patty requested to expand the accusation against former presidents Carlos Mesa and Jorge Quiroga, and businessman Samuel Doria Medina.

The Camachos were summoned to give their statements in La Paz in October 2021, however, citing health problems José Luis Camacho declared that he could not travel and the said summons were suspended.

After almost ten months of delay, on Monday, defendant José Luis Camacho finally appeared before the prosecutors’ commission, however, he refrained from testifying, taking advantage of his constitutional right to silence.

His son, Luis Fernando Camacho, was set to testify on July 12 and state under oath his role in the 2019 coup d’etat. Pending the hearing, the Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee and the opposition Creemos alliance had already called on their supporters to demonstrate at the Santa Cruz Prosecutor’s Office to support their leader.

On Friday, July 8, providing further evidence of the growing internal conflict between the right-wing sectors in the country, Áñez’s lawyer Alain Canedo asked the the Prosecutor’s Office to charge Camacho and request his immediate preventive detention in the case. He pointed out that despite the fact that the original complaint was against Santa Cruz’s governor, he was only notified to testify, unlike Áñez who was arrested and is in prison.

“The Public Ministry should charge him and request the preventive detention of Luis Fernando Camacho, similar to what was done with Jeanine Áñez…Let’s not forget that the complaint began against Luis Fernando Camacho in November 2020, and it is only in March 2021 that it was extended to Jeanine Áñez,” said Canedo, in statements broadcast by the Red Uno television station.

Since Áñez’s conviction last month, the relatives of the victims of the Sacaba and Senkata massacres and other human rights violations committed during her rule have been demanding that the national government bring to justice all those who were responsible in the planning and carrying out the coup. President Luis Arce has promised that his government will constitutionally and legally work to guarantee justice and reparations.