Jeanine Añez became the leader of Bolivia’s coup-born regime in the blink of an eye on November 12, 2019. She proclaimed herself interim president in the course of a few minutes during a very brief congressional session. The self-proclaimed interim president, Añez, thus became the sudden leader of a country that was just starting to experience an unprecedented social upheaval.
“The Bible re-enters the Palace,” she said from the balcony of the Quemado Palace, the seat of government in La Paz, brandishing a copy of the four Ancient Gospels. The months that followed that fateful day have a grim sequence: police brutality, massacres, corruption scandals, mismanagement of the pandemic, and protests against the unelected interim president.
Before the military coup against former President Evo Morales in 2019, she was a little-known extreme right-wing senator who, in her spare time, shared racist and fundamentalist comments on social networks. Her efforts to wipe her hateful tweets against Indigenous communities from the face of the internet were of little use. Screenshots of some tweets she posted on this social media went viral a few hours after she usurped power.
“How dare they celebrate Aymara New Year? You Satanists, nobody replaces God!” she wrote referring to the festivity that takes place every June 21 in the indigenous communities of Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Peru that marks the beginning of a new agricultural cycle.
That tweet was posted by Añez on June 20, 2013, on the eve of the Aymara celebration. Although she later deleted it, the post can still be viewed on the Wayback Machine, the digital platform that allows web pages to be archived.
There are also screenshots of another post that reads, “I dream of a Bolivia free of satanic Indian rites. The city is not for the Indians; let them go to the Altiplano or the Chaco.”
On October 5, 2019, just days before the coup was unleashed, Añez called Morales “a pathetic Native person who is clinging to power.” The tweet was accompanied by an illustration of the former president hugging a chair with the phrase “Last Days” overprinted in yellow letters.
Was this tweet a warning?
The racist message against President Evo set off all the alarms about whether Añez’s assumption to the presidency of Bolivia was meticulously planned by her ahead of time, and precisely when the conspiracy to seize power began.
According to Cuban analysts Rosa Miriam Elizalde and Pedro Santander, this was a coup that “combined known modalities -military pronouncements and repression- with new ones, especially in the technological-communicational dimension. The aim was to generate a supposed consensus against Morales’ government, aligned with the interests of the right-wing in the region.”
Añez went from having 8,000 to have nearly 150,000 followers just days before she self-proclaimed herself president. Over 40,000 of those followers were fake profiles recently created and had barely one or two follow-ups.
Most of these accounts were created before November 10, the day the military demanded President Morales’ resignation and a violent crackdown took place in Senkata and Sacaba cities, in which 20 people were killed and another 700 citizens were injured.
“It is not revenge, it is justice”
With the swearing-in of President Luis Arce on October 20, 2020, one year after the coup, Bolivia resumed the path of democracy. Prosecuting those responsible for the massacres, the social unrest, and the country’s unprecedented economic crisis that followed the 2019 elections are priorities for the new government.
Today, Añez is in preventive detention to ensure she will not escape. She is scheduled for four trials for the crimes of conspiracy, terrorism, and sedition. The coup ministers who accompanied her are also facing jail or have fled to Brazil, Colombia, or the U.S. trying to evade justice.
Argentine women’s rights defender Cecilia Sola knew this day would come. The feminist, who watched in horror as extremists beat, humiliated, and dragged Morales supporters through the streets with the consent of the Añez regime, wrote to the former “interim president”:
“Don’t be afraid, Jeanine/ They will not beat you/ They will not shave your head until your scalp bleeds, with your hands tied behind your back/ They will not drag you through the streets, after throwing red paint on you, for the scorn and amusement of your enemies/ Those Indigenous women that you despised and persecuted would not allow it.
You were detained and imprisoned with no human rights infringed upon/ You were taken to a women’s prison, with access to legal defense, and before the world’s eyes/ You have denied being an Indigenous woman and you have declared yourself Aryan, blonde, and superior to those people whom you sent to hunt, but you must not be afraid./ They, we, are not like you.”