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Former Bolivian President Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison

FILE - Bolivia's former interim president, Jeanine Áñez, who has been detained, is escorted Bolivian Police Commander Jhonny Aguilera at the military airport in El Alto, Bolivia, March 13, 2021.

Former Bolivian interim President Jeanine Áñez was sentenced to 10 years in prison Friday on charges linked to her assumption of office in 2019 amid violent protests that led to the resignation and exile of her predecessor, Evo Morales.

Áñez was convicted by the court of dereliction of duty and acting against the constitution when she proclaimed herself president in what Morales and his party have called a coup.

Áñez’s supporters deny it was a coup, saying Morales’ alleged abuse of power triggered a legitimate uprising in the streets. The ouster of Bolivia’s first Indigenous president and his vice president created a power vacuum that allowed Áñez to assume the interim presidency as second president of the Senate, they claim. The defense said she will appeal the decision.

“I did not lift a finger to become president, but I did what I had to do to pacify a country that Morales left convulsed as he fled,” Áñez said from the prison where she is being held.

Morales stepped down following nationwide protests over suspected vote-rigging in an Oct. 20 election, which he claimed to have won to gain a fourth term in office. Morales has denied there was fraud. The protests left 37 dead and forced Morales to take refuge in Mexico.

His party, known by its initials in Spanish MAS, returned to power in 2020 elections and Morales has since returned to Bolivia.

The trial sets a “historic precedent” against impunity, said MAS deputy Juan José Jáuregui.

The court also sentenced former Armed Forces commander Williams Kaliman and ex-police commander Vladimir Calderon to 10 years in prison. Four other former military chiefs received lesser sentences.

Outside the prison where she was being held about 50 people held posters protesting Áñez.