LA PAZ – The general heading the military contingent attached to the office of the Bolivian president was fired Thursday over the theft of the presidential regalia from the car of an army officer as it was parked outside a brothel.
The items, including a priceless medal bequeathed to Bolivia by South America liberator Simon Bolivar, were stolen Thursday night but recovered hours later.
The dismissal of Gen. Alberto Mansilla was announced by armed forces chief Yamil Borda during a press conference.
Mansilla and his team were responsible for the safekeeping of the presidential medal and sash after being moved from the security vault of Bolivia’s Central Bank, where the items are kept while not in use.
“We will act without protecting anybody or covering up anything,” Borda said, adding that the robbery “surpassed everyone’s imagination.”
“The robbery has tarnished the image of the armed forces and tarnished our anniversary, and the punishment should be proportional to this,” Borda said.
Earlier Thursday, President Evo Morales demanded an “exemplary punishment” for the soldiers involved in the fiasco.
“I cannot understand how some military brothers would be so irresponsible as to lose the presidential medal. It is very saddening. I was left without the medal yesterday,” Morales said during an event in the city of Cochabamba.
The president was supposed to wear the presidential medal and sash – which was also stolen – on Wednesday in Cochabamba to celebrate national armed forces day.
The items were stolen Tuesday night from a government vehicle driven by the military officer responsible for transporting the presidential regalia.
The military officer, an army lieutenant, reported the theft to the police and said that it took place while the vehicle was parked in a notorious red-light district of El Alto, a gritty industrial city neighboring La Paz.
“There are responsibilities, because the presidential medal is kept in the vaults of the Central Bank of Bolivia and it can only be handed to the army,” Morales said.
The president congratulated the police for recovering the items “in less than 24 hours,” after an anonymous phone call alerted them that they had been left in a church in downtown La Paz.
A Peruvian national has already been arrested in connection with the robbery, while the police is searching for three other suspects.
According to the Historical Research Society of Potosi, the medal was given to Bolivia by South American liberator Simon Bolivar in 1825 to mark the country’s independence, having an “incalculable monetary value” not only because of the gold and diamonds used to manufacture it but also because of its historical importance.