Baby scandal hits Bolivian president's bid for fourth term

Bolivian President Morales may doom his push for fourth term due to baby scandal

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Bolivia's President Evo Morales wipes his eye during a closing campaign rally in El Alto, Bolivia, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016.

Bolivian President Evo Morales is facing a baby scandal from an alleged influence-peddling affair involving a woman who bore him a child as he seeks a fourth term.

Bolivians will vote on Sunday whether Morales can run for a fourth term or not.

Morales pulverised the opposition in the early years of his decade-long presidency and cut poverty as he empowered Bolivia's long-downtrodden native majority.

In 2014, he won the re-election with 60 percent of the vote.

Last month, Bolivians criticised the president over allegedly shelling out $200 for haircuts.

Polls indicate voters for Sunday's referendum are split with some 15 percent undecided.

A Bolivian journalist, Carlos Valverde, said a young woman, namely Gabriela Zapata, gave birth in 2007 to a child sired by 56-year-old Morales the year after he took office.

Ms Zapata, reportedly, secured a top job with Chinese construction company that has obtained nearly $500 million in contracts with the state.

"I never saw her again. I did not know that she worked in that company," Morales said on a TV channel.

In 2015 a photo emerged of Morales with his arm around Zapata at a carnival in Oruro, Morales said it was a coincidence and people always approach him.

Another photo circulating shows Zapata's neocolonial mansion in an elite southern La Paz enclave.

A bachelor, Morales has two children with two other women and has generally succeeded in keeping his private life out of the headlines.

In 2013, Zapata became general manager in Bolivia for the China CAMC Engineering Co. Ltd., whose contracts with the state include one signed last year for a $177 million fertiliser plant, Zapata denies the allegations that her job was secured due to government influence.

Morales and his team remained silent for a few days after the report about his relationship with Zapata surfaced.

After the report, Morales admitted the relation with Zapata, saying it started in 2005 and she had a child in 2007. Morales added that it was 'bad luck' because baby died shortly after birth.

"After 2007, I cut all ties," he said.

Meanwhile Morales denied all corruption accusations directed by the political opposition.

"The right, led by the United States, has resorted to a dirty war." he said in an interview on Monday. "Because they have nothing to offer, they wage a dirty war."

Under Morales, average per capita income rose from $873 to $3,119 and a new indigenous bourgeoisie was born.

But judicial corruption became endemic, jail overcrowding worsened and health care did not improve.

At the same time, press freedom suffered as major news media were purchased by people friendly with the government and media criticising the government stated that authorities were harassing them with trumped up accusations of tax and labour law violations.

TRTWorld and agencies