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By HRF Chief Legal Officer Javier El-Hage & HRF Activism Outreach Specialist Jhanisse Vaca Daza

A Dec. 28 police operation involving over 40 heavily armed officers — most of them in plain clothes and wearing masks — violently arrested Luis Fernando Camacho, one of Bolivia’s most important opposition leaders and governor of the region with the country’s largest city, and swiftly moved him to La Paz in a military helicopter.

It seemed more like the arrest of a drug kingpin than of a democratically elected governor driving back home for lunch from a day in the office.

Twenty-four hours later, Camacho, 43, was preliminarily sentenced to at least four months’ pretrial detention in Chonchocoro — Bolivia’s notorious maximum security prison in El Alto — as he awaits trial on charges of “terrorism.”

The arrest has spurred country-wide demonstrations and police repression against his base in Santa Cruz, and set another terrible precedent for the political persecution of high-level government critics in a country with a judiciary notorious for doing the bidding of authoritarians.