Eric Watkins OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor
LOS ANGELES — The investigation into corruption at Bolivia’s state-run oil company has taken a bizarre turn, with the Bolivian president and other government officials now claiming involvement by the US Central Intelligence Agency.
“Unfortunately there has been a CIA presence in Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos [YPFB], and some of our colleagues have been caught by this foreign infiltration,” said Morales, referring to the arrest of his friend and former YPFB president, Santos Ramirez.
Local media said Morales gave no evidence of the involvement of the CIA, but quoted him as saying he could give details and names.
In his speech, Morales also said he would speak out against “how from overseas, from the United States” legal protection is being provided to the “corrupt people who were inside YPFB” with lawyers who are experts “in defending criminals.”
“It’s the group that represents the savage capitalism, which represents the large transnationals. They were not interested in poverty, no interest for life or humanity, but how to accommodate the capital in few hands,” Morales said.
Separately, Bolivian Interior Minister Alfredo Rada accused Rodrigo Carrasco Jhansen, a former national marketing manager for YPFB, of being a member of Bolivia’s Comando de Operaciones Especiales (Copes) and an informer for the CIA.
“Rodrigo Carrasco Jhansen was a member of Copes, a former policeman. You draw your own conclusions. But I can tell you that there is going to be no cover-up here,” said Rada.
“We, as the state, are going to continue the investigations to determine what this gentleman, Rodrigo Carrasco…was doing in YPFB,” Rada said.
Carrasco was arrested last week on charges of concealing and “making off with information” together with Julio Anagua, the former director of administration for YPFB.
“Rodrigo Carrasco was caught red-handed, trying to remove information from a computer…. In the second case, manager Julio Anagua was caught red-handed tearing up a sheet of paper (documents),” said YPFB Pres. Carlos Villegas.
Last week, Villegas said YPFB would file a complaint against Ramirez and 16 of his associates on corruption charges in connection with the signing of an agreement between YPFB and Catler Uniservice for the construction of an $86.4 million gas liquids separation plant in Rio Grande.
According to YPFB, the other defendants include: Julio Anagua Chumacero, Esther Carmona Nogales, Daniel Alvarez Gantier, Javier Guzman Navarro, Diego Argandona Aramayo, Linneth Sclink Ontiveros, Marco Antonio Vega del Carpio, Elizabeth Morales Troncoso, Ivan Garcia Coca, Federico Galan Laime, Richard Aguilera Montesinos, Maria Cecilia Palacios Jimenez, Pablo Valeriano Barroso, Ramiro Lizarazu Orellana, Mauricio Ochoa Urioste, and Juan Carlos Arellano Paz.
The complaint presented by YPFB to Edward Mollinedo, head of the special commission investigating the case, includes accusations of misconduct, abuse of power, signing of contracts harmful to the state, and other wrongdoings.
The scandal over corruption at YPFP emerged in early February with the murder of Jorge O’Connor D’Arlach, head of Catler Uniservice, the firm that last year won the $86 million contract from YPFP for the construction of the natural gas liquid separation plant in Rio Grande (OGJ Online, Feb. 7, 2009).
O’Connor was killed when entering the house of some of Ramirez’s in-laws with $450,000 in cash, alleged to be kickbacks to the now former president of YPFB.
The case has been a major political embarrassment for Morales, as Ramirez, once described as one of the president’s closest collaborators, was founder of the party that currently rules Bolivia—the Movement Toward Socialism.