Morales' office denounces sex complaint as 'dirty war' by interim government

FILE PHOTO: Former Bolivian President Evo Morales gestures during an interview with Reuters, in Buenos Aires, Argentina March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian/File Photo

LA PAZ (Reuters) - The press office of former Bolivian President Evo Morales denounced a criminal complaint of sex abuse as part of a “dirty war” by the interim government against the ousted leader less than two months before the country’s general elections.

Bolivia’s justice ministry this week filed a complaint against Morales, 60, for statutory rape and human trafficking in connection to his alleged relationship with a 16-year-old girl.

“Former President Evo Morales will not comment on the de facto government’s dirty war created for electoral purposes,” a press representative said in a statement late on Friday.

Bolivia’s interim government, run by conservative caretaker President Jeanine Anez, was installed after Morales, a long-serving socialist, resigned in the wake of a disputed election last year.

Morales is barred from running for office but the candidate from his MAS political party and Anez are two of the main contenders in the Oct. 18 presidential election.

Bolivia’s deputy minister of transparency Guido Melgar said the government had reviewed photographs, audio files and messages that the woman, now 19, sent to the former president by cell phone when she was underage.

“This suggests that there was a relationship of infatuation between the two people,” Melgar said. “According to the information, this lady went everywhere with Morales when he was president.”

The woman, however, accused the police of forcing her to say she had a relationship with Morales, in a letter sent to Bolivia’s Ombudsman’s office.

“I have been a victim of police harassment,” she said in the letter. “They told me that if I did not say everything they imposed on me, they would prosecute me for sedition and terrorism. They forced me to testify under pressure, without a lawyer.”

Reporting by Daniel Ramos in La Paz and Eliana Raszewski in Buenos Aires; Editing by Daniel Wallis