LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales on Monday expressed concern for the CEO of state energy company YPFB, Carlos Villegas, who is in a medically induced coma at a hospital in Chile, saying he will visit him when he regains consciousness.
Speaking at a press conference in La Paz, Morales said Villegas traveled to Chile on Jan. 1 to undergo treatment for esophageal cancer and was operated on four days later.
“The first report I had was that the operation went very well. Then there was an infection and the situation got worse. Obviously he’s been in an induced coma. I’m very concerned,” the president said.
Morales said Villegas’ brother told him that the barbiturates being used to keep the YPFB chief in the coma will likely be withdrawn this week.
“Once he regains consciousness I want to go visit him, cheer him up. It’s very important,” said Morales, who expressed his respect for the YPFB chief executive and admiration for his honesty.
The Bolivian government announced in December that Villegas had cancer and reaffirmed their trust in him amid an exchange of corruption accusations between the YPFB chief and his former press officer, Selva Camacho.
Camacho is accused of concealing family ties to companies that won contracts with the state-owned company.
The erstwhile close associate of Villegas denied the allegations last month in remarks to reporters at a police lockup, saying the YPFB chief was taking revenge on her and accusing him of sexually harassing her on several occasions.
The leftist president spoke out in support of Villegas once again on Monday, saying that “in such a big company you can’t keep track of everyone.”
“Upright and honest people” like Villegas lack the “funds for their treatment” Morales said, calling for a “voluntary contribution” by the ministries to help pay for his care.
YPFB, Bolivia’s largest company, has a $5 billion budget and has been responsible for overseeing the entire natural gas sector since Morales nationalized the industry in May 2006.