LA PAZ – Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Friday that in 2007 he had a child that died shortly after it was born, while denying opposition claims that a company employing the baby’s mother benefited from her past personal connections with the head of state.
“I obviously knew Gabriela Zapata Montaño – I met her in 2005. It’s true she was my partner. In 2007 we had a baby and unfortunately, our bad luck, it died. We had some problems and from that moment we have been apart,” Morales told a press conference.
The president said he doesn’t understand how, after 10 years, “some people use that for purely political purposes.”
“I don’t know if they have any principles, I don’t know if it’s based on the legality of using children that don’t exist,” the president said.
Morales was refuting a report by journalist Carlos Valverde about the supposed practice of “influence peddling” in the awarding of government contracts to the Chinese company CAMC Engineering, of which Gabriela Zapata is sales manager.
Zapata, according to press accounts, is a 28-year-old attorney and businesswoman who recently posted remarks on social media about how much she admires Morales.
CAMC Engineering won contracts for seven projects in Bolivia for a total value of $566 million.
Morales said this Friday that he has been completely out of touch with Zapata since 2007, and not until this Friday did he learn she is married and works for the Chinese engineering firm.
As proof there was no influence peddling, Morales said the government has canceled one of the seven contracts it had with CAMC and executed its bank guarantee because it did not comply with the time agreed upon to build a railroad.
He attributed the accusation to a “dirty war” being waged in Bolivia’s current political campaign leading up to a referendum on Feb. 21, when Bolivians will vote “yes” or “no” on a constitutional reform that would allow Morales to run for president again in 2019.
Morales, 56, is single but has a son and a daughter by different mothers.