Bolivia’s perennial student leader clung to post for decades without graduating

Max Mendoza has been arrested after a judge said his 32-year enrollment at university on a government salary may be a crime

Max Mendoza was escorted in handcuffs by police to San Pedro jail in La Paz.
Max Mendoza was escorted in handcuffs by police to San Pedro jail in La Paz. Photograph: Juan Karita/AP

AP in La Paz

Max Mendoza has been a remarkably persistent student – and a profitable one: he has been enrolled at a public university in Bolivia for 32 years but never graduated, much of it while being paid a government salary to serve as a student leader.

On Monday, though, he was detained and sent to jail after a judge ordered a six-month investigation into allegations his tenure as a state-paid student leader constituted a crime.

Mendoza, now 52, has unsuccessfully tackled a series of majors — industrial engineering, agronomy and law among them – since entering a university in 1990. But he has held a series of student leadership posts and since 2018, he has been president of the University Confederation of Bolivia, the country’s top student representative, earning $3,000 a month – 10 times the national minimum wage.

Prosecutors say he used the closure of schools for the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to extend his position.

“He didn’t meet the requirements. He didn’t have a bachelor’s degree [needed] to hold the post,” Judge Javier Vargas said on Monday. Prosecutor William Alave said other long-serving student leaders were also being investigated.

Critics complain that those leaders have taken advantage of the broad autonomy granted Bolivian public universities to hold on to government pay granted to student leaders.

Public anger at the situation rose after somebody threw a gas grenade into a student assembly in the city of Potosí this month and caused a stampede in which four students died. Many suspect the attack was meant to head off new student elections.

Ligan la tragedia de la asamblea estudiantil en Potosí con dirigentes afines al gobernante MAS | They link the tragedy of the student assembly in Potosí with leaders related to the ruling MAS

“Es una vergüenza”: MAS intenta marcar distancia con Max Mendoza y le llama “abuelo”
Max Mendoza (círculo rojo) en un acto público junto con Evo Morales. ARCHIVO | Max Mendoza (red circle) in a public act together with Evo Morales. ARCHIVE

El dirigente Max Mendoza es militante del MAS y tuvo unas 60 reuniones con Evo | The leader Max Mendoza is a militant of the MAS and had about 60 meetings with Evo

El universitario percibe un sueldo de docente, de 21.870 bolivianos. | The university student receives a teacher’s salary of 21,870 bolivianos.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s