Bolivia arrests ex-official in probe of IMF loan agreement

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Bolivia's government has arrested a former Treasury Ministry official as part of an investigation into a loan from the International Monetary Fund that was renounced by new President Luís Arce.

Former Vice Minister Carlos Schlink was arrested Tuesday as he was trying to leave the country, according to prosecutor Manuel Saavedra. Three former treasury ministers also are under investigation.

Schlink served under former interim President Jeanine Áñez, who herself has been detained on charges of sedition. The conservative assumed the presidency in 2018 after President Evo Morales was pressured into resigning amid protests over his reelection and left office after Morales' leftist party won elections last year.

Áñez reached agreement with the IMF for a $327 million loan to deal with the COVID-19 emergency, but Arce denounced the deal and returned the money, alleging it imposed financial conditions upon the country.. The IMF has sent a letter to Bolivia's congress denying any such conditions.

Schlink's attorney, Audalia Zurita, said her client “did not take part in signing loans.”

Justice Minister Iván Lima last month alleged that the need to return the loan had caused financial damage.

Opposition figures have accused the government of “judicial 'persecution” due to the arrest of Áñez about about 20 other former officials. Her own government had faced similar accusations when it tried to prosecute Morales and several of his key aides.