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US harbouring Bolivian fugitive from justice wanted for crimes relating to Washington-backed coup

FORMER Bolivian interior minister Arturo Murillo, who is wanted in relation to crimes committed in the aftermath of a 2019 Washington-backed coup, is hiding in the United States, his country’s attorney general has confirmed.

The fugitive from justice is sought on a string of charges, including the alleged irregular purchase of tear gas that was used to subdue protests after the overthrow of democratically elected president Evo Morales.

Mr Murillo was already know to have fled to Brazil before taking a flight to Panama, where he arrived on November 9.

Bolivian Attorney General Juan Lanchipa confirmed on Tuesday that Mr Murillo had entered the US on November 12 after the Movement Towards Socialism’s landslide victories in much-delayed presidential and parliamentary elections.

“We maintain our demand for Interpol to search for and capture the ex-minister,” Mr Lanchipa said.

Bolivia’s request for an Interpol red notice for Mr Murillo’s arrest was rejected last month on the grounds that the proceedings against him were political.

But La Paz has appealed against the decision, while also issuing arrest warrants for former defence minister Fernando Lopez and Hydrocarbons Minister Victor Zamora, with the latter wanted in connection with violations at state-owned Bolivian Petroleum Field.

“It is not known if they also fled to the US,” the attorney general said, explaining that US authorities had confirmed only that Mr Murillo was in the country.

Investigations are under way into key figures in the government of interim president Jeanine Anez, who took power after the US-orchestrated coup in November 2019.

A bloodbath followed as hundreds of indigenous Bolivians were massacred by government forces suppressing protests against the coup.

Tesla founder and world’s second-richest person Elon Musk voiced his approval, boasting in response: “We can coup whoever we want.”

Bolivia has some of the world’s largest reserves of lithium, a key component used in the development of his electric cars, and access to the resource is widely believed to have been the reason for the coup.

Ms Anez and 11 former government ministers have been charged with genocide over the Senkata, Sacaba and Yapacani massacres, which followed the imperialist power grab.

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