LA PAZ – President Evo Morales on Thursday asked the Bolivian congress to form a commission to investigate complaints about alleged influence trafficking in the awarding of $566 million in government contracts to a Chinese firm that employs a former lover of his.
In a statement to the media in La Paz, Morales asked Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, who presides over congress, to organize a legislative commission to investigate alleged irregularities involving CAMC Engineering.
“If they think there’s influence trafficking that they should investigate, we have nothing to hide. And if they want to go to any part of the country or the world, let them go to investigate,” the president said.
Morales’ request comes after opposition UD lawmakers called for a multiparty commission, including observers from civil society and international organizations, to investigate the complaints.
Morales’ leftist MAS party holds a majority in both chambers of the congress.
The accusations of influence peddling against the president for awarding the contracts to CAMC arose because the company’s commercial manager in Bolivia is Morales’ former girlfriend, Gabriela Zapata, with whom in 2007 he has acknowledged fathering a baby boy who died shortly after birth.
The controversy surrounding Zapata, 29, has been seized upon by the media.
In an interview with Red Uno television, Zapata denied the accusations and said she will sue anyone accusing her of benefitting from influence peddling.
She said that her duties at CAMC are those of commercial manager and that she never got involved in contract negotiations.
Meanwhile, Morales said that on Wednesday he had asked Controller General Gabriel Herbas to investigate whether or not administrative irregularities exist in the Chinese firm’s contracting practices.
During the press conference last week where he disclosed that he fathered a child with Zapata, Morales noted that the government had cancelled one of the contracts awarded to CAMC after the company failed to complete the work on schedule.