By Andean Information Network
On September 6, ex-Bolivian president Jorge Quiroga and his lawyer responded to court conviction of Quiroga’s for defamation, slander, and libel against Union Bank. The charges refer to Quiroga’s statements on February 6, 2009, when he denounced Union Bank as an outlet for corrupt money laundering. Quiroga’s accusations occurred shortly after Jorge O’Connor D’Arlach, a petroleum contractor, was murdered and accused of planning to bribe state officials at YPFB, Bolivia’s national gas company, for $450,000 USD, that he withdrew from Union Bank. Quiroga publicly stated, “An independent board should audit Union Bank, because it has become a laundering [service] for Chavez’s resources, for corruption and ill-obtained money for this government to use.”
Media Misrepresents Case Details
Both the Bolivian media and US-based CNN have misrepresented national laws and the circumstances of the case, supporting intentionally or unwittingly Quiroga’s assertions that, because the Bolivian government owns 83% of the bank’s shares, the Morales administration is trying to punish him as an opposition leader and prevent him from running for future public office. Although the government is a major shareholder, Quiroga’s trial is private, not government, initiative. Several media sources, as well as the press release from Quiroga’s legal team, have stated that the ruling lacks legal foundation, although the charges and the sentence comply with the stipulations of Bolivian criminal codes.
Although clearly the Morales administration harbors resentment against Quiroga, vocal opponent and author of the military forced coca eradication program from 1997-2002, there is little leeway in this case for judicial manipulation. Legal norms used to prosecute him were all passed before Morales came to office. Oddly, under Bolivian law, Quiroga could have nullified the charges against him by merely publically retracting his statements, quickly ending any potential perceived political persecution in the case.