Bolivia: opponents and lawyers seek justice reform

LA PAZ, Bolivia (HPD) — With the backing of the Catholic Church, Bolivian lawyers and volunteers launched a campaign to collect signatures Wednesday to carry out a referendum on reform of the judiciary.

“Enough! I sign”, is the name of the campaign that seeks to gather 1.5 million signatures. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal granted the books for the collection of signatures which, according to the law, will be carried out for 90 days.

“It is time for all Bolivians to be part of this crusade to reform this justice system,” said Juan del Granado, a lawyer and former mayor of La Paz. For his part, the vice president of the Bolivian Episcopal Conference, Monsignor Ricardo Centellas, explained that the Catholic Church “is supporting the referendum in Bolivia and making the transformation of justice a reality.”

Senator Luis Adolfo Flores, from the pro-government Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), described the campaign as “stories” and maintained that the pre-selection of candidates for the judicial elections scheduled for the end of the year will begin in the Legislative Assembly at the end of March.

The justice reform is one of the demands of the opposition and civil groups critical of President Luis Arce that arose from councils called after the arrest of the governor of Santa Cruz, Luis Fernando Camacho.

Camacho was sent to jail for four months on December 30 while he is being investigated for alleged terrorism.

The governor of Santa Cruz – Bolivia’s economic engine – is accused of encouraging the protests that followed the failed 2019 elections in which then-President Evo Morales sought his fourth consecutive term and which were described as fraudulent by the Organization of States Americans (OAS). This unleashed a political and social crisis that left 37 dead and forced Morales to resign and flee the country.

Subsequently, the then opposition senator Jeanine Áñez assumed the presidency on an interim basis. Áñez was also sent to jail for alleged terrorism and was later tried and convicted for illegally holding office.

In parallel, a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) arrived in the country to verify the progress of the recommendations of an interdisciplinary group of experts on the 2019 crisis. The experts blamed the governments of Morales and Áñez for the violence which led to massacres, torture, summary executions and serious violations of human rights.

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