LA PAZ – The top officials of the interim Bolivian administration led by former Sen. Jeanine Añez resigned en masse on Tuesday at her request to make way for a “transition” Cabinet ahead of the special elections set for May.
But the remodeled team she formally introduced in a ceremony late Tuesday at the presidential palace included only three new faces.
Añez, a member of a right-wing party that got only 4 percent of the vote nationwide in last October’s subsequently annulled elections, asked for the resignations after her communications minister, Roxana Lizarraga, quit in anger over the interim president’s decision to seek the presidency in the May 3 ballot.
“This adjustment to the Cabinet was necessary to be absolutely sure that all of the members of the team of collaborators are committed to an honest and transparent management for the good of all Bolivians,” Añez said during the event at Quemado Palace.
The most prominent addition to the administration is former Vice President Victor Hugo Cardenas, replacing Virginia Patty as education minister.
Añez said she was “honored” to have Cardenas, who she described as “one of the most capable educators Bolivia has.”
Lawmaker Eliane Capobianco takes charge of the Rural Development Ministry from Mario Ordoñez, while journalist Isabel Fernandez fills the vacancy left by the departure of Lizarraga, who is not alone in objecting to Añez’s presidential bid, announced last Friday.
Critics point out that Añez said at the time of her installation as interim president by the armed forces that she would serve only until voters elected a new government.
The military brass administered the oath of office to Añez in an otherwise empty legislative chamber on Nov. 12, two days after Evo Morales resigned as president at the “suggestion” of the generals amid mob violence directed at his political allies and family members.
While the attorney general appointed by Añez says she does not need to step down now in order to be a candidate, Morales’ leftist MAS party contends that she must resign to run because she acceded to the highest office by means other than an election.
Morales fled Bolivia after he was forced from office, going first to Mexico and later, to Argentina, where he remains.
MAS leaders and activists traveled to Buenos Aires for a Jan. 19 meeting that ended with the designation of Luis Arce, who was economy minister for most Morales’ 2006-2019 tenure, as the party’s presidential candidate.
Arce, 57, flew on Tuesday from Buenos Aires to El Alto International Airport, near La Paz, where he was greeted by MAS supporters and by his running mate, former Foreign Minister David Choquehanca.
Also waiting for Arce were representatives of the Attorney General’s Office who presented the presidential hopeful with a summons to appear before prosecutors early Wednesday for questioning in a case the president of the Senate, Eva Copa of MAS, called on the AG Office to deal with Arce in an “impartial and transparent” manner so as not to undermine his candidacy.
The Añez administration said on Monday that Arce need have no fear of arrest and that he will be able to campaign without interference.
Añez and Arce will be joined on the ballot by former presidents Carlos Mesa and Jorge Quiroga and Luis Fernando Camacho, a far-right business mogul.
New general elections were scheduled for May 3 after the cancellation of the balloting held on Oct. 20, in which Morales narrowly won a fourth term in office.
Those elections were annulled after an Organization of American States (OAS) audit – conducted amid accusations of fraud by Bolivia’s opposition – claimed the results could not be validated due to “deliberate actions that sought to manipulate” the vote count.
Morales, the first indigenous president of this poor, majority indigenous nation, denied the OAS allegation but agreed to a new general election, yet he was still forced to resign hours later.