Corruption, racism and threats: the dark record of the ministers of Jeanine Áñez

At the end of May, the then Minister of Mining, Fernando Vásquez, had to be removed because of his racist expressions in a radio interview
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A new scandal faces the De Facto Government of Bolivia, led by the self-proclaimed Jeanine Áñez, after the Defense Minister, Luis Fernando López, threatened a citizen with making him «disappear in 10 seconds» at the hands of the Military.

«He reacts and you disappear in 10 seconds, do you know or not? I guarantee that it can happen», López said in a video broadcast by the newspaper Página Siete.

The Minister’s threat came about due to an alleged lack of respect from the civilian to a military man and was recorded during the implementation of a security check in the department of Beni, in the north-central part of the Andean country.

The man asked him the reason for his harsh words and to this López replied: «I guarantee that it will happen. Never disrespect a uniformed man».

Faced with this new threat, the unidentified citizen said that the military officer should respect him since he also yelled at him, and stated: «We are in a democracy», as can be seen in the audiovisual material.

In a message published on his Facebook account, the Minister indicated that a lieutenant was insulted by a citizen and that «in the face of this fact», his «reaction was not appropriate», so it was not justified.

«I offer this citizen my sincere apologies, I am very sorry», López wrote, trying to calm the criticism raised as a result of his threats and to confront the thousands of Bolivians who demand his resignation, while Jeanine Áñez remains silent.

The Minister of the Massacres

It is not the first time that Luis Fernando López is in the eye of the hurricane, last March the «self-proclaimed» ratified him in office, after the Legislative Assembly voted to censor him for not appearing in any of the three required hearings to give explanations for the Sacaba and Senkata massacres that occurred during the Coup d’etat to former President Evo Morales, which left at least 36 dead and hundreds of wounded and detained.

«Minister, continue working with the same patriotism, I reaffirm my confidence», said Jeanine Añez when she took Fernando Lopez oath for a second time as he had been disaffected from the Defense portfolio, as reported by the argentine newspaper Pagina 12.

Fernando López assumed the Defense Ministry after the coup against Morales, with the support of the armed forces and far-right civil groups. In those days of November 2019, the «interim president» decided to take the military to the streets to dissolve and suppress the protests generated by the coup against the indigenous leader.

Another scandal related to the controversial Minister is that of the resignations of Raúl Ramiro Peñaloza Escalera, deputy defense minister; and Fernando Calderón Terán, Vice Minister of Civil Defense, respectively, which occurred in late April.

After five months in office, both soldiers decided to leave the vice ministries, after denouncing several irregularities regarding purchases that supposedly «do not enter the warehouses».

«The acts of corruption in different areas of the Ministry of Defense have generated internal tensions that caused the resignation of General Peñaloza and Colonel Calderón», said one of those consulted by Pagina Siete.

Resignations, layoffs and scandals

Almost seven months after the coup, Áñez has taken a strong hold of the Bolivian Presidency despite the fact that she should have called for elections in the first month of her de facto government.

In this period, the Áñez administration has been accused of committing nepotism, managing public resources for personal effects, manipulating strategic companies; while scandals, resignations and dismissals within her Cabinet have filled the pages of the newspapers.

Among the recent inconsistencies of the De Facto Government, the resignation of the Minister of Productive Development, Wilfredo Rojo, stands out, who left office on May 8, being replaced by Oscar Ortiz, precursor of the coup.

To this resignation is added that of Rafael Quispe, who was director of the Indigenous Development Fund. Quispe was removed from his post and is currently being investigated by the Prosecutor for alleged commission of crimes against the public health, Telesur reported.

This same week, Áñez was forced to dismiss the Deputy Minister of Labor, Franz Choque, for «politicizing and electoralizing» an employment program presented in late April.

In a recording broadcast on social networks, Choque assured that with this government employment plan it is possible to create up to 1.2 million «grateful» voters for the next elections scheduled for September.

The racist minister

At the end of May, the then Minister of Mining, Fernando Vásquez, had to be removed for his racist expressions. In a radio interview, Vásquez stated that due to «specifications» of «identity» he was not «compatible» with the militants of the Movement to Socialism (MAS), the party of Evo Morales.

«Regarding my relationship with MAS, I think I do not have the requirements, because to be a masista there are some specifications, including identity», he said, according to the state news agency ABI.

“I have green eyes, frizzy hair, I am white; I do not want to discriminate, but those, my conditions, do not make me compatible with the rest of the MAS people», added the former official, speaking to a radio station in Fides de Potosí, a mining region of the Quechua majority, where he is from.

The now former minister, who worked during the Morales government, assured that he made the comment ironically to deny any type of link with MAS.

«Being singled out as a massist, I erroneously responded with irony, a fact that is not always well understood and is often taken literally», he said, seeing that his statements had generated a wave of outrage and criticism.

Under pressure from civil society and the political sector, Áñez decided to remove Vásquez from his duties.

«As president, I have decided to dismiss Minister Vásquez for his racist expressions. In this government I do not accept any corruption or discrimination. Bolivia is a family where we are all equal», she said on her Twitter account.

The now former minister runs the risk of being prosecuted under a law called «Against racism and all forms of discrimination», enacted in 2010 during the government of Evo Morales.

Corruption and coronavirus

During the pandemic, Áñez’s management has received countless criticisms for the way it is handling the health crisis caused by the new coronavirus and because of cases of corruption in the health sector.

Since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported, the De Facto government has had three health ministers and one of them was dismissed due to a complaint of an alleged overpriced purchase and other irregularities of 170 emergency ventilators to care for the sick.

The former Minister of Health, Marcelo Navajas, was sent to preventive prison for the purchase of overpriced respirators from the Spanish company IME Consulting.

Navajas was sent to preventive detention for three months in a La Paz jail, prosecutor Ruddy Terrazas explained, after evaluating that the respirators were purchased at triple their price, at a rate of more than $ 27,000 each, with resources granted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Amid the scandals of the De Facto government, Bolivians continue to express their rejection of the management by the current administration in the face of the health emergency due to the new coronavirus, and demand the resignation of the self-proclaimed government minister, Arturo Murillo.

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