Corruption scandal engulfs 'Evo Morales' government in Bolivia
By Jhanisse Vaca Daza
More than 200 people accused of corruption in the disbursements of the Indigenous Fund in Bolivia, among them government officials and close allies to Morales’ party, MAS.
Bolivia’s Indigenous Fund (formerly known as the Fund for Development for Indigenous and Native People and Peasant Communities) was created in 2005 with the aim of financing development actions in rural areas. It received five percent directly from the total of the tax on hydrocarbons imposed by the Bolivian government. However, such Fund has been abolished this year due to a corruption scandal in which several government officials are involved. More than 200 people are prosecuted and about 26 detained while investigation on the disbursements of this fund continues. Among them are union leaders, former authorities from the Executive Power and senators from the ruling party, Movimiento Al Socialismo (MAS).
The first whistleblower to denounce the corruption within the Indigenous Fund was Jacobo Soruco Cholima, leader of a Rural Workers’ Union in Bolivia. He denounced to authorities in 2012 that the money from the Indigenous Fund was not going to rural areas but rather to some official’s bank accounts. Not long after this, the union leader started receiving anonymous dead threats on regards of his denunciation. Mr. Jacobo Soruco was then murdered in June of the same year, shot to death while he was working on his land. His co-workers and other union leaders see his murder as direct retaliation from denouncing corruption within the Indigenous Fund.
However, the scandal did not end there. In February of 2015 the Comptroller General of the State of Bolivia denounced the misuse of about 144 million bolivianos in the Indigenous Fund, which equals to more than 20 million US Dollars. All of this money was supposedly used in 153 projects carried on by the Indigenous Fund from 2010 to 2013, yet none of these projects were properly carried on nor finished. Likewise opposition leader and Head Officer of the Democrat Union party in Bolivia Oscar Ortiz denounced in a press conference that 685 million bolivianos were disbursed to 968 private bank accounts related to the Indigenous Fund, which equals to more than 95 million US Dollars.
The then State Minister of Rural Development and highest executive authority in the Indigenous Fund, Nemesia Achacollo, has declared herself innocent of any fault in the corruption scandal. She indicated that while she indeed approved the projects, she did not administer them and therefore is not to blame for the misuse of the Fund’s resources. All the same, different union leaders have pointed her and several other ministers as responsible for corruption: the Minister for the Presidency, Minister for Productive Development, Minister of Economy, and the Minister of Planning and Social Development.
While there are no results yet, the government has promised a firm hand with the results of the investigation. Deputy for the Democratic Union party Jimena Costa has indicated that this investigation is being instrumented with political goals by the ruling party and the government. Further on, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has indicated that they hope for the investigation and further trials to be transparent and fair. In a recent interview with CNN, the Government Minister Carlos Romero indicated that the amount of government officials implicated in this corruption case is much lower than the amount of corrupt officials in previous governments and that fact “ought to be applauded”.
The Oslo Times