President of Bolivia Jeanine Áñez used her speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to accuse gangs supportive of former socialist President Evo Morales of preventing the safe transport of oxygen to patients suffering from the Chinese coronavirus.
In her virtual broadcast from La Paz, Áñez accused Morales’ supporters of having engaged in violent demonstrations aimed at undermining next month’s elections. One of their methods, she claimed, was to set up roadblocks preventing the passage of oxygen for patients as well as other essential resources.
“We are fighting, despite this caudillo populism trying to stop and sabotage these elections with the brutal and violent mobilizations a few weeks ago,” Áñez explained. “Mobilization, such as roadblocks so that oxygen destined for COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] patients is unable to pass. This is an extraordinarily inhuman and cruel way to sow chaos and terror. These mobilizations caused death and damage, which under the law are considered as crimes against humanity.”
Following his resignation last year, Áñez’s government published an audiotape allegedly of Morales urging a leftist union leader to organize a plan to starve city dwellers by blockading roads, preventing food and other living essentials from getting to the nation’s cities.
“Don’t let food into the cities,” the voice alleged to be Morales can be heard saying.
Áñez also slammed the government of Argentina at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday for granting asylum to Morales, wanted in his homeland on numerous charges including sedition, terrorism, rape, and genocide.
A socialist revolutionary who ruled Bolivia for 14 years, Morales resigned from office and fled to Mexico, then Argentina, after an audit by the Organization of American States (OAS) found “irregularities” in the results of last October’s presidential election. Morales supposedly won that election, granting him a fourth term, despite the Bolivian constitution containing term limits that made his candidacy illegal.
Áñez, a conservative Christian senator, became president after everyone above her in the line of succession — all members of Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party — resigned and fled the country.
Facing countless criminal charges in Bolivia, Morales has since received asylum in Argentina, where socialist Alberto Fernández last year defeated center-right leader Mauricio Macri in a presidential election. Fernández has so far refused to recognize Áñez as Bolivia’s president and has granted Morales asylum for as long as necessary.
“By what right do they harbor a violent conspiracy by Evo Morales against Bolivia’s democracy from Argentine soil?” said Áñez during her pre-recorded speech, denouncing the “systematic and abusive harassment exercised” by the Argentine government. Áñez also explicitly mentioned to the United Nations the fact that Morales stands accused of statutory rape.
Last month, the Bolivian government revealed, amid multiple reports of Morales engaging in sexual relationships with minors, that the former head of state appeared as the father on a birth certificate for an infant born to a teen girl. He has repeatedly denied the charges, insisting that right-wing “coup plotters” were behind the accusations.
During her address, Añez also warned that Latin America must choose between either “the path of freedom or the path of oppression,” as countries such as Venezuela and Nicaragua languish as socialist dictatorships.
“Once again we find ourselves faced with the dilemma that arises between democracy and dictatorship. In short, facing the dilemma of modernity,” she explained. “Have we as a state worked to oppress or to guarantee freedom? Let’s admit that Latin America in general has not overcome the authoritarian threat.”
“[Guaranteeing freedom] is the path we are building in Bolivia,” she continued. “It is the way to restore power to the people. It is the way to hand over power to the rule of law.”
Áñez’s comments come ahead of next month’s presidential election, from which she recently withdrew as a candidate in an attempt to unite the anti-socialist vote and prevent the current frontrunner — Morales’s former economy minister and the nominee for the Movement for Socialism party, Luis Arce — from winning.
“I’m doing this because of a risk that the vote gets divided between various candidates,” she said in a national address broadcast on social media. “If we don’t unite, Morales will return. If we don’t unite, democracy loses.”