Bolivia judge rules opposition governor must remain detained ahead of trial

LA PAZ, Jan 19 (Reuters) - A Bolivian judge ruled Thursday that Santa Cruz Governor Luis Camacho, a leader long in opposition to the left-leaning federal government, must remain detained while he awaits trial.

Camacho was arrested in December on a charge of "terrorism" in relation to social unrest in 2019 which saw then-President Evo Morales flee the country.

Since then, weeks of protests and blockades in Camacho's Santa Cruz region, an agricultural hub, have impacted trade with the rest of the country, putting pressure on political capital La Paz.

Camacho's lawyer had appealed his four-month detention ahead of his expected trial, arguing that he was not a flight risk and should be placed under house arrest.

But judge Rosmery Lourdes Pabon on Thursday ruled that he should remain imprisoned.

Camacho appeared calm during the virtual proceedings, occasionally smoking from a vaping device.

The conservative governor rose to prominence as a civic leader in anti-Morales protests, eventually running in the 2020 presidential elections, coming in third behind current president and Morales ally Luis Arce.

Prosecutor Omar Mejillones said Thursday Camacho was responsible for creating a "power vacuum" behind Morales' resignation, having demanded Morales step down in a letter he delivered to the then-president, accompanied by a police escort.

Morales had declared victory in a disputed election that appeared to give him a fourth straight term. Election monitors said they suspected fraud, triggering weeks of violent protests.

Morales' successor, the conservative former Senate Vice President Jeanine Anez, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in June for orchestrating a coup.

Reporting by Monica Machicao and Aida Pelaez-Fernandez; Writing by Kylie Madry and Isabel Woodford; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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