Bolivia has a new interim president, lawmaker Jeanine Áñez Chávez, who, until Tuesday night, was the second vice-president of the Senate and little known to most Bolivians.
Her declaration that she was Bolivia’s new leader came on the heels of a legislative session that was boycotted by the Movement for Socialism (MAS), the party of former president Evo Morales.
Áñez was sworn in by her allies, despite lacking quorum, after all other officials in the line of succession had fled. The country's highest court validated the proclamation shortly after. Áñez, considered a right-wing religious conservative, becomes Bolivia’s 66th president and the second woman to hold the post. Early moves confirm she will seek a significant pivot away from the politics of her predecessor.
Fresh from being sworn in, she posed with a purple Bible and, later, held a leather-bound copy of the Gospels. Morales, a socialist, did away with religious oaths of office. “God has allowed the Bible to come back into the [presidential] palace. May he bless us,” Áñez said.
Her emergency cabinet appointments Wednesday included three women, but nobody from one of Bolivia’s 36 indigeneous groups, ginning up controversy over racist tweets she posted in 2013. The posts — later deleted — described and ridiculed new year celebrations by the Aymara indigeneous community (“Nobody can replace God!”) as “satanic.” In another tweet, she questioned their reasons for going barefoot.
The 52-year-old lawyer from the northeastern region of Beni, bordering Brazil, is a longtime critic of her predecessor. Áñez belongs to the Democratic Unity party, led by the governor of Santa Cruz province, an opposition stronghold.
Her career in politics was jump started in 2006 when Áñez was elected to an assembly that Morales called to reform the Bolivian constitution after his ascent to power. She then became a senator in 2010, and was named second deputy leader in line with a tradition that all parties be represented in the top posts.
Before her career in politics, she was a lawyer and campaigned against gender violence. She also worked as a television presenter and station director. Áñez has promised to hold fresh elections as “soon as possible” which, according to the Constitution, must happen within 90 days.