LA PAZ – The CEO of Bolivian state oil company YPFB has died from cardio-respiratory arrest at a clinic in Santiago, Chile, President Evo Morales said. He was 61.
Carlos Villegas died on Saturday, nearly three weeks after undergoing surgery for cancer of the esophagus.
“It’s a huge loss. An honest man, hard to replace,” Morales told the official ABI news agency.
Morales declared an official 72-hour mourning period starting on Monday, ABI reported.
Villegas was in an induced coma for several days after the operation in Chile, where he traveled on Jan. 1 amid allegations of corruption involving him and former official Selva Camacho.
Camacho, who is under arrest, worked as Villegas’s top communications and public affairs assistant.
Morales, who defended Villegas against the allegations, ordered an official plane sent to the Chilean capital to bring the body of the executive back to Bolivia.
Villegas took over as CEO of YPFB in early 2009 after previously serving as hydrocarbons and planning minister.
YPFB, whose interim CEO is Guillermo Acha, is Bolivia’s largest state-owned company and has managed the energy industry since its nationalization by Morales in May 2006.