Criminal proceedings against Jeanine Áñez over Senkata massacre begin in Bolivia

In November 2019, at Áñez’s orders, security forces brutally repressed protesters who had blockaded the Senkata gas plant as a part of the anti-coup protests, massacring 10 protesters and injuring over a hundred

January 18, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Former Bolivian de facto President Jeanine Áñez. Photo: Archives

On Tuesday, January 17, Bolivian Prosecutor’s Office decided to expand the criminal proceedings against former far-right de facto President Jeanine Áñez, trying her for the crimes of genocide, homicide and serious injuries in the Senkata massacre, committed on November 19, 2019. The decision was welcomed by the family members of the victims of the massacre.

Justice Minister Iván Lima reported the decision through his Twitter account. “Memory, Truth and Justice, the Public Ministry has informed the…Judge of the city of El Alto about the extension of the criminal process against Jeanine Áñez Chávez  who will be tried for the Senkata massacre for the crimes of genocide, homicide and serious injuries,” Lima tweeted.

Following the right-wing civic-military coup against former President Evo Morales and illegal seizure of power in November 2019, the de facto regime led by Áñez unleashed an unprecedented level of repression against those who took to the streets in rejection of the coup. She authorized security forces to use extreme force to suppress social protests. She even passed a presidential decree, Supreme Decree 4078, which exempted police and military officials participating in repression operations from criminal responsibility. After this, the coup-supporting Police Force and Armed Forces brutally repressed the multitudinous mobilizations.

On November 19, 2019, the Áñez regime sent in helicopters, tanks and heavily armed police officers and soldiers to the Senkata gas plant, in El Alto, to crush one such protest. The Indigenous residents of the city had blockaded the Senkata gas plant as a part of the nationwide anti-coup protests. The security forces tear-gassed the protesters and shot firearms into the crowd, massacring 10 protesters and injuring dozens.

The complaint document indicated that repression by the joint police-military forces against the civilian population left 10 people dead “due to the impact of a firearm projectile” and 31 others injured with injuries “compatible with a firearm projectile and from perforating blunt force.”

The central basis of the Prosecutor’s complaint against Áñez is the issuance of Supreme Decree 4078 of November 14, 2019, which exempted military and police personnel from criminal liability for their actions and, they argue, led to the massacre of protesters in Senkata and in Sacaba city.

Four days prior to the Senkata massacre, on November 15, 2019, in Sacaba, Cochabamba, security forces brutally repressed a peaceful march with tear gas and live bullets, killing at least 11 and gravely injuring more than a hundred protesters.

In 2021, the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) was sent to Bolivia by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), to investigate the acts of violence and human rights violations committed between September 1 and December 31, 2019. The GIEI determined that the coup installed regime led by Áñez was responsible for the Sacaba and Senkata massacres, as well as for ethnic violence, racial discrimination, torture, persecution, illegal detention, and summary executions of those who took to the streets in support of Morales.

Áñez is currently imprisoned, serving a 10-year prison sentence in the Miraflores Women’s Penitentiary Center in the capital La Paz. In June 2022, the First Anti-Corruption Sentencing Court of La Paz sentenced her 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 in November 2019.

The Prosecutor’s Office is also investigating Áñez in the “Coup d’état I” case on charges of terrorism, sedition and conspiracy, for her involvement in the plotting and execution of the 2019 coup.

During her trial in the ‘Coup d’état II’ case, the evidence presented showed that Áñez, who was the second Vice President of the Senate in 2019, declared herself President without considering the line of succession and did so before an empty Senate in a session that lacked quorum. They also proved that the former heads of the security forces had a plan prepared for Áñez to take power.

On December 28, 2022, police authorities arrested another key person involved in the 2019 coup, far-right opposition leader and governor of Santa Cruz Luis Fernando Camacho, in the ‘Coup d’état I’ case. Camacho, who was the president of the Pro Santa Cruz Civic Committee in 2019, organized and promoted violent and racist demonstrations against the Morales government across the country during the post-elections conflict in October and November 2019.

The survivors and relatives of the victims of human rights violations by the coup government are also demanding that the criminal process be expanded to include former Presidents Carlos Mesa and Jorge Tuto Quiroga, businessman Samuel Doria Medina, who in their opinion were the intellectual and material authors of the coup.