A few days ago, Bolivia’s public prosecutor ordered the arrest of a journalist (photo) accusing him of interfering with the judicial process in a case of child abuse. The specific reasons behind the arrest were never very clear but it seems that the prosecutor considered that the journalist’s research on the case, and his interviews with the people involved, were somehow interfering with the official investigation. As expected, the press and other media outlets initiated a strong protest campaign against the arrest and the public opinion was that the apprehension of the journalist was a flagrant abuse against free speech.
Aware of the political costs that this arrest could provoke only two weeks before regional elections, yesterday, the party in power, the MAS, acted quickly and “coordinated” with the prosecutor the release of the journalist. Today, the journalist was, indeed, released.
Apart from any consideration as to whether the arrest was appropriate or not, what is truly amazing in the story is the political power of the executive branch. In just two days, the government “coordinated” with the judicial system (i.e. ordered) the release of somebody previously arrested with the order of a judge. How is this possible? Does the judicial system not have rules and procedures that are independent of any “coordination” or order from the executive branch? Where is the separation of branch powers? Is this the way justice works in Bolivia? If the government doesn’t like an arrest, can they just pick put the phone and “coordinate” the immediate release with the judges and prosecutors? This is truly pervasive and yet another example of the continuous abuse that characterizes the dictatorship that runs Bolivia.