Bolivia’s president faces multiple scandals
By Marilia Brocchetto
(CNN)It’s been a bad couple of weeks for Bolivian president Evo Morales.
First, the Bolivian leader had to accept defeat in a referendum making his current presidential term his last, and now he is at the center of a scandal that reads like a Bolivian soap opera plot. It involves a secret relationship, a child that may or may not be alive, and alleged embezzlement and influence peddling.
In 2005, Morales met and fell in love with a businesswoman named Gabriela Zapata. The two dated secretly for a couple of years but split in 2007, shortly after having a baby together, according to Morales.
Morales is not married and has two other children from previous relationships. [that we know… so far…]
Passion and politics
Valverde asserted that Zapata, now working for Chinese engineering company CAMC, had been awarded multi-million dollar government contracts after using her presidential connections.
It was also Valverde who announced that Morales had a son with Zapata.
Zapata was arrested on Friday for allegedly legitimizing illicit profits, illicit enrichment of individuals with involvement with the State, and misuse of influence, according to Bolivian State run news agency ABI. Zapata is currently in jail after a hearing in La Paz on Sunday.
The Chinese company has been awarded many contracts by the Bolivian government. They’ve been hired to work on the construction of roads as well as several factories in different parts of the country.
The Presidency Minister, Juan Ramón Quintana, insists that all the contracts awarded by the government to CAMC happened before Zapata was ever hired by them, ABI reported.
“Mrs. Gabriela Zapata was hired in 2013 and several of these contracts date back to previous years,” Quintana said. Quintana insisted the president has had no contact with Zapata since 2007.
“If there was any influence by President Morales to facilitate the hiring of this citizen in the Chinese company, certainly we would say that this is traffic of influence, but we reject categorically that President Morales has influenced this hiring. In fact President Morales has not had any relationship (with Zapata) since 2007. She was hired in 2013 and there have been no contracts since 2011.”
In an interview with CNN en Espanol, Angela Burgoa, Zapata’s lawyer, insists that her client will demonstrate how the how the projects she is being accused of taking part in were handled, who signed them and how they were awarded.
“We want to remind the public that Ms. Zapata is not the one who signed for the projects. She is not the maximum executive authority. She would have to be a minister to sign for these projects,” Burgoa said.
According to ABI, CAMC’s judicial adviser, Fernando Cortez, has said that Zapata was not part of the bidding process for projects and has asked that the Bolivian government investigate all contracts.
But wait, there’s more
Once the bombshell story broke, Pilar Guzman, Zapata’s aunt, told Bolivian station Unitel that Ernesto was in fact alive.
Morales has since said he is hurt by Zapata’s alleged lie that his son had died and has appealed to the family to let him see and meet his son.
“I want to ask family, the alleged aunt, that they show him to me, they bring him to me, I want to see him. If your family allows me, I want to recognize the baby, well the child. In reality, I cannot understand. I can’t believe they falsely told me the baby had died. I have no problem and if the family permits, I’ll recognize the child, it is a joy”
CNN’s Gloria Carrasco contributed to this report