Bolivian Government Minister Eduardo del Castillo talks about the capture of former Minister Edwin Characayo, who is seen on the screen.
For the first time in recent Bolivian history, a sitting minister is arrested for taking a bribe.
The Minister of Rural Development and Lands of Luis Arce's Cabinet, Edwin Characayo, was filmed and photographed by the police while receiving just over $ 20,000 in a central street in La Paz.
The Minister of Government, Eduardo Del Castillo, announced this Thursday the arrest, which he described as an "exemplary fact" of the will of the president to fight corruption "with zero tolerance and whoever falls."
Del Castillo explained that there is a corruption network that trades rulings on rural land ownership, one of the matters that the detained minister was in charge of.
"The head of this network has fallen," he said.
He supported his accusation by showing photographs in which people are seen exchanging something under a tree, in front of the María Auxiliadora de El Prado church, in the heart of La Paz.
Along with Minister Characayo was the Director of Rural Development of the Government.
Del Castillo claimed that he has in his possession recordings of phone calls, indicating that the police have been investigating the officials for some time.
The bribe was part of a payment of $ 380,000 that the people involved in this case allegedly demanded to grant a property title to the El Triunfo II ranch, located in San Ramón, a municipality in the Beni cattle region.
As far as is known, the owners of this hacienda were extorted, but instead of giving in, they denounced what was happening to them to other government agencies.
In Bolivia, most of the arable and productive land is in the hands of different types of owners, but only a portion of them have property titles, which are issued by the Government.
In theory, these titles are transitory, only valid while the property is productive, but in fact they grant a definitive right to its holders and allow their participation in the land market.
This is the most striking case of dismissal of a minister in the modern history of the country, although in the past several dignitaries have gone directly from their offices to one of the country's prisons.
The most recent case was that of the Minister of Health of Arce's predecessor, President Jeanine Áñez, who was responsible for the purchase at a premium of a batch of respirators destined for the intensive care rooms of public hospitals.
It is not the first time that the Ministry of Rural Development and Lands has caused headaches for President Arce.
He also had to fire the former Minister because he had hired his romantic partner as his team leader.
This state portfolio is one of the government spaces reserved for peasant organizations that constitute the backbone of the official party, the Movement for Socialism (MAS).
Luis Arce: "We do not want revenge in Bolivia, there are many things to do"
For a long time, leaders of this party, such as former vice president Álvaro García Linera, have expressed doubts about the moral behavior of some peasant, worker and neighborhood leaders who have found in the MAS a means of access to power and economic resources.
These leaders have a strong influence on the government's actions, so some analysts have interpreted the shocking action against Characayo as a political gesture by Arce to establish or reaffirm his control over all government areas.
“We are not going to tolerate corruption, wherever it comes from.
This was a phrase, but now we have proven it to be true.
Any act of corruption, be it of the MAS [or of any other political party] will be sanctioned.
Because we have not been elected to govern for a party, but for each and every Bolivian ”, said Minister Del Castillo at a press conference.
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