Government officials in Bolivia have accused the former mistress of President Evo Morales of corruption, extortion and racketeering, as Bolivia becomes the latest country to see cracks in the impunity enjoyed by Latin American elites.
Minister for the Presidency Juan Ramón Quintana presented evidence in a May 13 press conference against a corruption racket involving Gabriela Zapata Montaño, La Razón reported.
Quintana also denounced Cristina Choque, the former director of the Social Unit (Unidad de Gestión Social) within the Office of the Presidency, for having led the operation with Zapata. Ricardo Alegría Sequeiros, a former member of the Bolivian Senate, has also been implicated in the scheme, which is being described as a “state mafia.”
While he did not provide much detail on how the network functioned, Quintana said that he will be turning over the evidence that his office has uncovered to prosecutors in the Public Ministry.
Zapata’s judicial problems began on February 26 when she was arrested on suspicion of illegal enrichment, influence trafficking, and money laundering.
Zapata is a former commercial manager for the international firm China CAMC, which has received some $500 million in state contracts in recent years. She was reportedly in a relationship with Morales between 2005 and 2007 and the pair had a child together. Their relationship only became public in early 2016.
InSight Crime Analysis
With government ministers now adding to the evidence against Zapata, it appears her case is set to become the latest corruption scandal to reach political elites in Latin America.
The biggest of these scandals was seen in Guatemala, where the president and vice president were ousted last year and are currently awaiting trial on charges they were operating a customs fraud ring. The current first lady of Peru Nadine Heredia has also been dogged by corruption allegations, while the evolving “Ruta K” public works corruption scandal in Argentina threatens to tarnish the legacy of deceased former President Néstor Kirchner as well as the reputation of his wife and successor as president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime
This raft of investigations reaching the highest offices of political power suggest the region’s corrupt elites may not be as secure as they have been in the past. However, corruption in Latin America is deeply rooted and there remains far to go if the region is to truly break free of its grip.