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Bolivian Health Minister Arrested After Corruption Scandal

  • The now former minister was arrested in La Paz on May 20, 2020

    The now former minister was arrested in La Paz on May 20, 2020 | Photo: EFE

Published 20 May 2020
Opinion

Marcelo Navajas was investigated over to the over-priced purchase of coronavirus ventilators

After rumors of corruption arose over the over-priced purchase of ventilators to fight COVID-19, Bolivia's health minister Marcelo Navajas was arrested, the police chief said on Wednesday.

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In light of this, Navajas was dismissed from his post. Instead, interim President Jeanine Añez appointed Eidy Roca as interim minister. Roca was serving as deputy minister of health and promotion, in charge of preparing risk maps of the pandemic. 

According to the head of the Special Forces to Fight Crime unit (FELCC) Colonel Iván Rojas, the arrest of Navajas occurred 24 hours after Añez ordered an investigation on the operation where Bolivia bought 179 ventilators from a manufacturer in Spain, for $27,683 each, with a total amount of 5 million dollars.

"I pledge to pursue this investigation against those who have committed corruption in the purchase of ventilators, and that every penny will be returned to Bolivians. I will continue to work to equip our hospitals with transparency," Añez posted on Twitter Tuesday night, a week after she publicly announced the purchase.

Along with Navajas, the Legal Director of the Ministry of Health and agents from the Agency for Health Infrastructure and Medical Equipment (AISEM) are being prosecuted as well.

"The apprehended will be placed at the disposal of the jurisdictional authority, within the respective period established by law," stated Rojas.

The deal was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (BID). In regards to this situation, the institution released a statement on Wednesday afternoon to express its "concern" about the irregularities of the deal.

"The BID is concerned about reports of possible irregularities in the purchase of respirators by the Bolivian Ministry of Health, with bank's funding, and respects the control measures implemented by the country's public institutions to clarify the case," it says.

Till the date, cases testing positive of COVID in Bolivia ascend to 4,481, with 189 deaths and 533 recovered.

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