Bolivia’s Morales announces treason trial for army general

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

President-elect Evo Morales.

President-elect Evo Morales, who will assume office on Sunday January 22, announced on Wednesday that General Marcelo Antezana will face trial for treason after sending 28 aging Chinese-made missiles to the U.S. for destruction at the request from the U.S.

General Antezana, who was dismissed from his position this Wednesday 18, told Bolivian media that Washington had requested the missiles amid fears that Evo Morales would win the presidency. Days later, he retracted his comments. The Defence Minister, Gonzalo Mendez, resigned over the scandal.

Morales' political party, Movement for Socialism, has petitioned the Public Ministry to bring the transitional president Eduardo Rodriguez to trial on charges stemming from their investigation.

Rodriguez, interim president appointed after Carlos Mesa resigned in June, said that he had authorized the destruction, but not the transfer of the weapons, which were the only ones of its kind in Bolivia. The missile handover was an unapproved arrangement between local soldiers and the U.S. military, according to Rodriquez. He made a formal protest to the U.S. embassy on Tuesday, he said.

Rodriguez said his decision to get rid of the weapons was based on recommendations from United Nations and the Organization of American States. The army also reported they were a safety hazard. The obsolete surface-to-air missiles were destroyed in the U.S last October.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said that a campaign to eliminate portable arms in Latin America has been on-going in an effort to keep them from falling into the hands of terrorists.