LA PAZ – The trial of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ former girlfriend, who faces a series of charges that include criminal conspiracy and money laundering, got under way Friday in La Paz.
Prosecutors read aloud the charges against Gabriela Zapata, a former commercial manager for state-owned Chinese company China CAMC Engineering Co. (Camce) who has been jailed for more than a year, at the start of the hearing.
Zapata, who was Morales’ girlfriend from 2005 to 2007, is accused of being part of a criminal conspiracy that used the offices of the Ministry of the Presidency to make deals with business leaders in exchange for bribes.
The indictment also names two alleged accomplices of Zapata’s, Cristina Choque and Jimmy Morales, who worked in a Ministry of the Presidency unit used by Bolivia’s first ladies and purportedly deposited $30,000 into one of Zapata’s bank accounts.
Two other individuals, Ricardo Abelardo Alegria and Carlo Marvin Ramirez, also allegedly were part of the same purported conspiracy.
Morales’ political opponents also have accused Zapata of using her influence to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts for Camce, but a congressional commission made up of seven ruling-party lawmakers and five opposition legislators found last year that those accusations were without merit.
In addition, Zapata stands accused of people trafficking and criminal conspiracy in a separate case involving allegations that she coached a young boy and presented him before a judge to make it seem as if she and Morales had had a son who was born in 2007.
But in recent statements to a television station from prison, Zapata said that she had never given birth to a son, contradicting her earlier remarks. She had at one time said the couple had had a young boy who was still alive, but later said he died at a young age due to illness.
Morales, who sued Zapata last year to demand she prove that a boy he fathered was alive, has on several occasions blamed those lies on his defeat in a February 2016 referendum, when Bolivian voters rejected his bid to amend the constitution to allow him to run for re-election once again in 2019.
The leftist president says that the result of the plebiscite therefore is invalid and that he intends to seek a fourth term in office for the 2020-2025 period.
His leftist MAS party is analyzing options to make that possible, although the opposition says a Morales candidacy would be unconstitutional.