The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials often engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. According to a September poll conducted by the independent news outlet Pagina Siete, citizens believed corruption and trafficking of influence were the two principal problems facing the government. The poll found that 44 percent of the persons polled believed the government had serious problems with corruption.
Corruption: There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. On February 3, journalist Carlos Valverde released a story about his investigation into trafficking of influence between the government and the CAMC. While the government initially denied the charge of influence peddling, the scandal embroiled government officials in the weeks leading up to the February 21 referendum vote on presidential re-election. On February 26, authorities arrested Gabriela Zapata on charges of illegal enrichment, laundering of unjust gains, and influence trafficking, the same charges the government was fighting. During Zapata’s tenure at CAMC, the company won more than $500 million in no-bid contracts with the government, allegedly due to her ties to the president. Zapata had frequently worked in the First Lady’s office in the Ministry of the Presidency, used a government vehicle, and allegedly had a child with Morales. The formal indictment filed by the prosecution supported these claims, stating that CAMC contracted Zapata because she was “a woman of considerable influence” who had “a direct line to the president of the country.”
After her arrest, Zapata accused the ministers of hydrocarbons, mining, and public works, and Minister of the Presidency Quintana of involvement in the corruption scandal. In response, Quintana, Minister of Transparency Lenny Valdivia, and Minister of Defense Reymi Ferreira tried to discredit the claims of Valverde and redirect the conversation by attacking Gabriela Zapata and others in the media.
Although the president was initially reticent on the CAMC affair, mounting political pressure caused him to call for an investigation into the matter of the CAMC contracts. The State Comptroller, an organization supposedly independent but packed with government loyalists, was the first to investigate. The second investigative body to examine the contracts was the Legislative Assembly, where the MAS party holds a supermajority. The Legislative Assembly absolved President Morales, Quintana, and other government officials involved in the contracts with CAMC of any criminal liability. Zapata, along with a lower-ranking official from the ministry of the presidency and a driver of the ministry car used by Zapata, were under criminal investigation and detention as of November. Opposition party Unidad Democrata used the minority report from the Legislative Commission that investigated the matter to allege that the government was guilty of influence peddling in six of the reviewed CAMC contracts. Other civil society and political actors made similar allegations.
In May, Morales’ private lawyer filed an additional suit against Zapata and her legal team (Eduardo Leon, William Sanchez, and Pilar Guzman) for trafficking in persons, child abduction, falsifying legal documents, and forgery. Zapata and Morales allegedly had a child together in 2007 that they both claimed died shortly thereafter. According to prosecutors Zapata’s lawyers illegally attempted to convince the courts that the child of Zapata and Morales was still alive to show that President Morales had a continuing relationship with Zapata and a reason to support her business ventures.
On July 15, the prosecutor in the case determined there was not enough evidence to sustain any formal complaint against Zapata regarding four of the charges. The prosecutor also absolved the president, the minister of the presidency, directors of CAMC, and other government authorities who were named in the case of any undue influence, corruption, or wrongdoing. Despite these actions, Zapata continued to face a number of charges. On July 27, the government prosecutor presented the following charges against Zapata: laundering of illicit profits, misrepresentation, use of falsified documents, misuse of goods and public services, and conspiracy. As of December she was awaiting trial on these charges in the prison in Miraflores.
Charges against Zapata’s lawyers and others embroiled in the Zapata scandal since February were also pending. Police detained Eduardo Leon, one of Zapata’s former lawyers, on May 17 after the president filed a complaint alleging Leon was guilty of several crimes, including human trafficking. On June 1, authorities placed Leon in pretrial detention under the charge of falsifying his military record in order to obtain his legal license. Following his initial arrest, the Prosecutor’s Office added the charges of fraud and using false documents in official legal proceedings. The Ministry of Education invalidated Leon’s legal license because of the accusation that he obtained it under fraudulent circumstances. The National Bar Association stated the ministry did not have the proper legal authority to take such action. Leon remained in custody awaiting further investigation and trial. Two lawyers who were formerly part of Zapata’s legal team, William Sanchez and Walter Zuleta, fled the country to avoid facing similar charges by the government.
In 2015 a comptroller audit of the government-run Indigenous Fund revealed that as overseer of the fund, former minister of rural development Nemesia Achacollo, helped divert more than 68.3 million bolivianos ($9.98 million) from the fund. According to media reports, Minister of the Presidency Quintana had known of irregularities in the fund since at least February 2014, and several leaders of social organizations stated that Morales knew of the issue but urged silence to keep unity within the social movements. The attorney general filed charges against Achacollo in December 2015 due to mounting political pressure from citizens. Authorities arrested Achacollo in August and placed her in pretrial detention.
Police corruption remained a significant problem, partially due to low salaries and lack of training. The Ministry of Anticorruption and Transparency and the Prosecutor’s Office are responsible for combating corruption, but most corrupt officials operated with impunity.
Cases involving allegations of corruption against the president and vice president require congressional approval before prosecutors may initiate legal proceedings, and congress rarely allowed cases against pro-government public officials to proceed. The government ignored court rulings that found unconstitutional the awarding of immunity for corruption charges.
Financial Disclosure: The law requires public officials to report potential personal and financial conflicts of interest and to declare their income and assets. The law mandates that elected and appointed officials disclose their financial information to the auditor general, but their declarations are not available to the public. According to the law, noncompliance results in internal sanctions, including dismissal. The auditor general must refer cases involving criminal activity to the Attorney General’s Office. There were no reports during the year on the financial disclosures of officials or investigations of those disclosures.
Public Access to Information: The constitution provides for the right to access, interpret, analyze, and communicate information freely in an individual or collective manner. No law implements this right.