Prosecutors in Bolivia are seeking six months’ pre-trial detention in the case of Luis Fernando Camacho, the governor of Santa Cruz and prominent right-wing leader whose sudden arrest on Wednesday led to charges of kidnapping.

Camacho is being held in the political capital of La Paz on “terrorism” charges, prosecutor Omar Mejillones confirmed in a statement Thursday.

The governor of Santa Cruz also faces an ongoing investigation into his role during Bolivia’s 2019 political crisis, which led to the departure of then-President Evo Morales. Charges under consideration include dereliction of duty, abuse of influence and assaulting the president and senior officials.

Camacho — a former presidential candidate who heads the powerful Christian conservative coalition Creemos — was a leader during the 2019 protests that helped remove Morales, the country’s leader. first indigenous presidentfrom office.

In a statement, Camacho rejected the allegations, saying they were not credible.

The political crisis of 2019 saw Morales look for a fourth consecutive term as president, a move that was denounced as unconstitutional by his critics. Morales had successfully appealed to the Supreme Court installments to abolish after voters rejected it in a 2016 referendum.

Morales successfully won his fourth term in October 2019, but the election was mired in allegations of fraud and protests erupted into disputes Morales’ leadership. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights estimates that 36 people have lost their lives during the crisis. With an international audit underway and violence in the streets, the Bolivian military called on Morales to resign.

He did, leaves office in November 2019but condemned the conflict as a “coup”. On Thursday, Morales welcomed Camacho’s arrest with a message on Twitter.

“Finally, after three years, Luis Fernando Camacho will answer for the coup that led to robberies, prosecutions, arrests and massacres of the de facto government. We trust that this decision will be enforced with the determination demanded by the people’s cry for justice,” Morales wrote.

Camacho’s allies, meanwhile, have called the arrest a “kidnapping” organized by the political party Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism (MAS).

In a statement posted on Camacho’s social media Thursday, his legal team said the Bolivian judiciary had “practically closed the doors” to their legal actions to release the governor and continued to “violate laws.” [his] constitutional rights”.

from Camacho arrest and subsequent imprisonment have exacerbated existing tensions between Bolivia’s leftist government and conservative-led Santa Cruz, the largest of the country’s nine departments.

Following the prosecution’s announcement on Thursday, the right-wing Pro-Santa Cruz Committee — a civic group that Camacho once chaired — announced it would lead a general strike on Friday, as well as blockades on the department’s highways.

In Santa Cruz, protesters have already taken to the streets to block roads. The local public prosecutor’s office is said to have been set on fire. And on Wednesday, amid reports that Camacho would be flown to La Paz to face charges, protesters entered two Santa Cruz airports in an apparent attempt to stop his transport.

Bolivia’s Public Works Minister Edgar Montano said on Twitter on Thursday that his home in Santa Cruz had been attacked and set on fire, “violating the integrity and safety of my family”. He blamed Camacho and the Pro-Santa Cruz Committee for the attack.

“They will not intimidate us with criminal acts such as burning down my house and calling on social networks to loot other officials’ institutions and homes,” he tweeted, adding, “#SantaCruz is not an independent country.”

A protester shouts during a protest in Bolivia
A protester outside the prosecutor’s office in La Paz, Bolivia, clamors for the release of Santa Cruz Governor Luis Fernando Camacho. [Claudia Morales/Reuters]

Earlier this year, the Pro-Santa Cruz Committee led massive protests after the current one President Luis Arcea member of Morales’ Movement Towards Socialism party, announced plans postpone the census of Bolivia.

The census, originally scheduled for this year, was expected to show population growth in Santa Cruz, a soybean-growing department rich in agriculture and home to the country’s largest city. That, in turn, would have resulted in more government funding for the department, as well as increased representation in Congress.

Prosecutors have pledged to seek the “hardest punishment” for any violence resulting from this week’s protests. Meanwhile, Bolivian politicians representing Camacho’s Creemos party have appealed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect Camacho’s “security and integrity.”

A spokesman for the US State Department told Reuters: “We encourage adherence to international standards and reliance on democratic institutions. We urge all parties to resolve this issue peacefully and democratically.”

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