LA PAZ – The self-proclaimed president of Bolivia, Jeanine Áñez, has completed seven days in office. The interim government, which claims to have the sole purpose of calling for new elections, has already modified domestic legislation and foreign policy in the Andean country.
The de facto government that took power in Bolivia following the fall of Evo Morales on November 10, in only seven days and adopted measures that substantially modify the character of the policies of the Bolivian state.
Carte blanche for military and police
While the international community called for moderation and an end to repression of protesters, Bolivia’s de facto government issued a decree authorizing the military and police forces to suppress the population and exempt them from further trial.
“Members of the Armed Forces participating in operations for the restoration of order and public stability shall be exempt from criminal liability when, in the performance of their constitutional functions, they act in self-defense or in a state of necessity,” the decree states.
Break with Venezuela
One of the first pronouncements of the de facto government of Jeanine Áñez was about Venezuela. The president acknowledged the government of her self-proclaimed colleague Juan Guaidó as “president in charge” and, via Twitter, invited him to appoint an ambassador in Bolivia.
“I thank the President (in charge) of the Republic of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, for the recognition of my government. As constitutional president of Bolivia I invite you to designate a new Venezuelan ambassador to Bolivia, who will be recognized immediately by our government,” Áñez wrote in Twitter.
At the end of her first week in office, Áñez went further and decided to break Bolivia’s diplomatic relations with Venezuela. Bolivian Foreign Minister Karen Longaric has accused the Venezuelan diplomatic mission of “intervening in the internal affairs” of her country and is considering expelling the diplomats from the country.
Withdraws from ALBA and UNASUR
On Friday, the interim government decided to make other significant changes in Bolivian foreign policy. Minister Longaric announced Bolivia’s withdrawal from the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America (ALBA) and the group’s Trade Treaty, which includes Venezuela and Cuba. The ALBA was created in 2005 as a response to the North American Free Trade Area (FTAA) project.
The minister also removed the country from UNASUR, the South American regional organization created in 2004, based in Quito. UNASUR was the subject of controversy for creating a South American Defense Council, which played a decisive role in the Colombian decision to deny the US the right to build a military base on its territory in 2009.
In 2009, Bolivia undertook a comprehensive constitutional reform that defined the state as multi-national and secular. The reference to Catholicism as an official state religion was removed and the constitution established that “the state is independent of religion.”
However, the self-proclaimed president took office with a Bible in hand, stating that “He [God] allowed the Bible to re-enter the presidential palace.” The issue is very relevant to the country, whose ethnic, linguistic and religious composition is very heterogeneous.
Prison for opponents
Although the interim government’s stated goal is to call elections, the interim president has already stated that she will not allow Evo Morales to be a candidate in the next election. Not only Evo, who is in exile, but other leaders of his party, the MAS, are at risk of being excluded from the electoral process.
The threats came mainly from de facto government minister Arturo Murillo, who on November 14 announced the beginning of a “hunt” against former MAS minister Juan Ramón Quintana.
“Whoever rebels from tomorrow, take care of himself,” Murillo threatened, adding that he would create a special division in the prosecution to arrest MAS leaders who, according to the interim government, incite the protests.
At the same time, the interim president noted that the participation of the MAS, which holds the majority in both houses of the Bolivian parliament, is not assured in the upcoming elections, and that it would be up to the Supreme Electoral Court to decide “whether or not to rejoin the elections.”
Bolivia has entered a series of political crisis after the opposition failed to acknowledge the results of the October presidential election , published by the Supreme Electoral Court, the same body to which Áñez will now entrust the ruling on President Evo Morales’s party.