Evo Morales’s estranged son ‘to talk to media’

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A woman who had a son with Bolivian President Evo Morales says she will present her child to the media “at a convenient time” to prove he is alive.

Mr Morales, 56, says he had a two-year relationship with Gabriela Zapata, now 28, from 2005.

He has acknowledged that Ms Zapata gave birth to his son in 2007 but alleges she told him the child died shortly after being born.

Ms Zapata’s aunt said on Saturday that the boy was alive and in Bolivia.

News of the relationship between Ms Zapata and Mr Morales first emerged on 3 February as part of a journalist’s investigation into alleged influence peddling.

Speaking on Bolivian television, journalist Carlos Valverde disclosed that a Chinese engineering firm, CAMC, had been given lucrative state contracts.

Gabriela Zapata until recently was a senior manager at the Chinese firm.

Mr Valverde also broke the news of the previously undisclosed relationship between Ms Zapata and Mr Morales.

He said the two had had a child together.

Two days later, Mr Morales spoke in public for the first time about the relationship.

“I met Gabriela Zapata Montano in 2005. It is true that she was my partner,” he said.

“In 2007 we had a child, but unfortunately, he died. We had some problems and then we grew distant,” he added.

Prosecutors opened an investigation into the allegations of influence peddling and on Friday ordered the arrest of Ms Zapata.

She has been charged with money laundering, embezzlement and abuse of influence.

Ms Zapata’s aunt, Pilar Guzman, who visited her in detention on Saturday was the first to allege publicly that Mr Morales’s and Ms Zapata’s son was still alive.

“The child lives. I held him in my arms when he was four months old,” she told reporters on live television.

“The child is called Ernesto Fidel. He’s here [in La Paz]and is between eight and nine years old now,” she said.

A lawyer for Ms Zapata later also said that the child was alive and well.

Mr Morales seems to have been taken by surprise by the news.

At first he said that if his son was alive he would like to meet him and “bring him up”.

He also asked a court to order Ms Zapata’s family to let him see the child “in private” within five days.

But on Tuesday senior government ministers said they were “absolutely convinced that sadly, the boy has passed away”.

They did not say what they based their information on.

Ms Guzman insisted on Tuesday that the boy was alive and that her niece would “introduce him before the international media at a convenient time”.

She said Ms Zapata insisted on the presence of the media “for security reasons”, although she did not explain what threats she feared.

“At that time, the boy will talk, he is not a small child who doesn’t understand, he is old enough and knows what is happening,” she said.

Mr Morales, who has never married, has two children from previous relationships. He has acknowledged both.

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