Bolivia opens probe into 600 former Morales officials

Bolivia's ex-President Evo Morales during an interview with AFP in Buenos Aires, on December 24, 2019. (AFP Photo/RONALDO SCHEMIDT)

La Paz (AFP) - Bolivia's interim government said Wednesday it would launch a corruption probe into nearly 600 officials of the former administration, including ex-president Evo Morales

"It has been decided to initiate investigations against 592 former officials," Mathias Kutsch, the justice ministry's chief anti-corruption investigator, told a news conference.

The probe will include Morales, vice-president Alvaro Garcia, ministers, vice-ministers, heads of cabinet and public administration officials, Kutsch said.

He added that the investigation would identify those who had "committed corruption crimes, who diverted public resources, and chiefly, who diverted them to other countries."

Morales, Garcia and various other members of the government who resigned after the former president stepped down amid protests in the South American country in November have sought asylum abroad.

A group of around 10 former officials are sheltering inside the Mexican ambassador's residence in La Paz.

In a separate move Wednesday, Interior Minister Arturo Murillo said Bolivian authorities had called on Interpol to arrest Morales to prevent him traveling to Chile where he has been invited to participate in a human rights forum.

"We have given the order for the activation by Interpol of the warrant we have drawn up against Evo Morales, given the news from Chile," he told reporters.

The government in November issued a warrant for Morales' arrest should he return to Bolivia.

On Twitter, Morales denied he had received an invitation from Chile.

The ex-president initially fled to Mexico but is now living in Argentina. Bolivia's first indigenous president, he claimed he was overthrown in a coup supported by the United States.

Since coming to power, the interim right-wing government has regularly denounced corruption committed under Morales' 14-year rule.

Several state companies are being investigated for corruption, including the National Telecommunications Company, state oil company YPFB, the ministries of mining and health, and pension funds.

Kutsch said the first results of his anti-corruption inquiry would be made public in April.

The government of interim President Jeanine Anez last month annulled the result of flawed elections that would have given Morales a fourth term, and has scheduled new elections for May 3.