Questions mount over former president's arrest in Bolivia

Former Bolivian President Jeanine Añez on September 20, 2020 in La Paz.

(CNN)She saw it coming.

Even before her arrest in the wee hours of the morning Saturday, former interim Bolivian President Jeanine Áñez published several messages on her Twitter account. "Political persecution has begun," the rightwing politician wrote Friday afternoon. Less than 24 hours later, she would be detained at her home in the city of Trinidad.
Members of her former cabinet were arrested too. Álvaro Coímbra, who served as justice minister under Áñez, and Rodrigo Guzmán, who was her energy minister, were detained as part of a Bolivian police operation apparently targeting officials who served in the previous administration. A local judge has ordered that all three be held in detention for four months while an investigation is carried out.
    "I denounce to Bolivia and the world that, in an act of abuse and political persecution, the MAS government has ordered my arrest. They accuse me of participating in a coup that never happened. I pray for Bolivia and all of its people," the 53-year-old Anez tweeted just before her arrest, referencing the country's leftist ruling party Movement Toward Socialism (MAS).
      Anez was Bolivia's interim president for barely a year. Once a little-known second-vice-president in the Senate, she took the job in 2019 amid the chaotic fallout of a disputed election that saw then-president Evo Morales resign and flee to Mexico.
      Until that point, Morales had ruled Bolivia for three terms -- almost 14 years -- and was hoping for a fourth. Though an international audit would later find the results the 2019 election could not be validated because of "serious irregularities," he declared himself the winner, prompting massive protests around the country.
      Then-head of the Bolivian Armed Forces, Cmdr. Williams Kaliman, asked Morales to step down to restore stability and peace; Morales acquiesced on November 10 "for the good of Bolivia."
        But political allies maintain he was removed from power as part of a coup orchestrated by conservatives, including Áñez. After Morales resigned, so did Álvaro García Linera, his vice-president, as well as the senate president and the lower house president, creating a power vacuum that Áñez was constitutionally mandated to fill as a caretaker leader.
        The next year, her government organized fresh elections. Luis Arce, a Morales protégé, won, and the former president finally returned from exile to Bolivia.
        But now that Morales is back, some fear political vengeance will follow.

        Vague charges

        Altogether, Bolivia's Attorney General's Office has issued arrest warrants against ten officials in the Anez interim government, including the former interim president herself and the two ministers who were already arrested.
        The charges are broad and proof scant. According to officials, the charges Ánez and several of her ministers face are terrorism, sedition and conspiracy to commit a coup -- accusations they have rejected fiercely, with Anez herself describing the charges as an act of "political persecution."
        Upon his arrest, Coímbra, the former justice minister, said in a video published by Unidad Demócrata, an opposition political coalition, that there was no legal basis for his detention.
        "This has no legal validity. Do you know the reason why we are currently detained according to the arrest warrant? It says we have committed the crimes of terrorism, sedition, and others simply because we accepted our posts as ministers. That's it!" Coímbra said in an impromptu statement made behind the bars of a local holding cell.
        Standing right next to him in the same cell was Rodrigo Guzmán, energy minister under Áñez. "This is an illegal arrest. They have detained us on the street in [the city of] Trinidad. They could've easily subpoenaed us, and we would've gladly appeared in court. We didn't flee and we won't do it. We will face this process and all of the political things they may throw at us. We are sure that this is just a smokescreen to hide the terrible management of the pandemic," Guzmán said.
        The government of President Arce, who won the presidential election in October, has denied that the arrests have anything to do with a political vendetta.
        Appearing on national TV, Prime Minister Eduardo del Castillo was unequivocal. "It's very clear that we're not committing any type of political persecution. We neither act arbitrarily nor intimidate those who think differently. This process had already begun. Justice is taking its course as it is legally proper, and we believe that it has