Latin America & Caribbean

Bolivia President Evo Morales believes estranged son is dead

Evo Morales at a news conference, 24 Feb 16 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Evo Morales, a 56-year-old bachelor, is Bolivia's first president of indigenous origin

Bolivian President Evo Morales has begun legal action against a former girlfriend, demanding to see a son he thought had died nine years ago.

He said the boy's mother, Gabriela Zapata, had five days to show the boy to the authorities.

On Monday, Mr Morales said he wanted to meet his son, after a relative of Ms Zapata said the boy was living in an undisclosed location in Bolivia.

But he has now said he does not believe his son is alive.

"I am totally convinced that this boy has unfortunately died," Mr Morales said in a news conference..

He had a relationship with Ms Zapata between 2005 and 2007, when she got pregnant and the baby was born.

Ms Zapata told him at the time that their baby had fallen ill soon after birth and had died.

"I ask myself why since 2007 did they hide him from me? For what reasons did they distance me?" he said on Monday.

Bolivia's Transparency Minister, Lenny Valdivia, said the mother's account of what has happened since 2007 is full of contradictions.

"She told the president that the baby was born. Then he gave money to help bring him up. It was only when he demanded to see the child, many years ago, that she said the baby had died," said Ms Valdivia.

Ms Zapata, who is in her late 20s, was arrested on Saturday, as part of a corruption investigation.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Ms Zapata has been accused of illicit gains and influence trafficking

She worked as a top executive for Chinese building company CAMC.

Last month, Bolivian media reported that in recent years the company had been awarded contracts with the government worth $500m (£360m).

The opposition accused Mr Morales of using his influence to benefit the company because of the connection with his former girlfriend.

Mr Morales rejected the accusations and said they were part of a strategy from right-wing forces to undermine his credibility ahead of a referendum.

He was seeking to change the constitution to allow him to run for a fourth successive term, but the referendum was rejected by 51.3% of voters.

Mr Morales has been in power since 2006 and his current term runs out in 2020.

Ms Zapata has not as yet made any comments on the corruption allegations.

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