Coronavirus | Bolivia's Health Minister arrested over 'ventilator corruption' allegations
Bolivia's Health Minister Marcelo Navajas has been arrested in corruption regarding the overpriced buying of ventilators for the treatment of the novel coronavirus before being sacked by interim President Jeanine Anez. Marcelo Navajas along with two other health ministry officials were arrested on Wednesday in La Paz; a day after Bolivian President Anez ordered an investigation into the purchases.
Anez, who had taken office as the President only six months back in November last year, is facing tremendous criticism over the handling of the country's biggest corruption scandal. A total of 179 ventilators were purchased by Bolivia from a manufacturer in Spain at $27,683 each taking the total cost to almost $5 million, with the Inter-American Development Bank stepping forward for the funding. Having said that, things took a different turn when it was later revealed that the manufacturer was selling the same for half the price at 9,500-11,000 euros each ($10,312-$11,941). It has also been revealed in the early stages of investigation that another Spanish company too was involved in the transactions and was acting as an intermediary.
Taking to Twitter, Anez said that Bolivia has shelled out more than $2 million to date for the ventilators, but "will not pay one more cent" and added saying she is focused on "recovering the money of Bolivians". The lead up to the incident was a highly controversial turn one towards the end of last week after complaints were raised by intensive care doctors who said the ventilators were not compatible to be synchronized with the intensive care units that were already there in Bolivia.
Communications chief Isabel Fernandez too issued a statement later on Anez's decision to remove Marcelo Navajas from office as the health minister to "avoid any interference in the work of the law,". Bolivia has recorded over 4,500 positive coronavirus cases to date with the death toll in the country crossing 190. The country's borders were ordered to be closed on March 17 after which a lockdown was imposed.
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