Bolivian president Evo Morales is facing a scandal over his relationship with young business manager Gabriela Zapata. The 28-year old executive is accused of using her government connections for personal gain.
A Bolivian prosecutor ordered the ex-partner of Morales to be jailed on Sunday, while the authorities investigate her on charges of corruption, money laundering, and influence peddling.
The prosecutor Edwin Blanco also warned that unnamed government workers might "modify, hide and suppress documentation" linked to Zapata's case.
Zapata is a senior manager in the Bolivian branch of the Chinese company CAMC Engineering, which recently won a $560 million (514 million euro) government contract for a railway project. The firm also holds contracts to build a power plant, a lithium plant and a sugar refinery.
According to Blanco, Zapata used government offices to hold meetings with foreign investors, and sent out official letters to government agencies pressuring them to favor her company.
After the rumors surfaced, president Morales asked the Congress and regulatory bodies to look into CAMC activities and vowed that he would protect no one. Morales also ordered CAMC to pay $22.8 million for not completing a railway contract. In addition, the Chinese company was banned from seeking government deals for the next three years.
Morales' son rumored to be alive
The Bolivian leader denies using his influence to aid his ex-lover. The 56-year old politician, who is single, acknowledges that he became romantically involved with Zapata in 2005 when she was 18 years old. Morales claims that the relationship ended in 2007, and that they had one child which later died.
However, some government opponents pointed to the photos that seem to show Morales and Zapata together last year. In addition, Zapata's aunt proclaimed during the weekend that the president's son was still alive, causing a sensation in the Latin American country.
On Monday, Morales publicly asked Zapata's family to tell him the truth about his son.
"It would be a joy to me if he were alive," he said at a press conference in La Paz.
The scandal surrounding Zapata most likely contributed to Morales' tight defeat last week, when the voters rejected a constitutional change aimed to let him run again in 2019.
dj/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)