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Bolivia probes alleged Morales affair with minor

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La Paz (AFP)

Bolivia's justice ministry has filed a criminal complaint against 60-year-old former president Evo Morales over an alleged sexual relationship with a minor, Deputy Minister Guido Melgar said Thursday.

"The Justice Ministry has filed a complaint against citizen Juan Evo Morales Ayma for the crimes of statutory rape and human trafficking," Melgar told a press conference in La Paz.

The move comes several days after the alleged relationship came to light. Photographs showing Morales with a young woman have been published in Bolivian newspapers and on social media in recent days.

The woman, now age 19 and identified by Melgar only by the initials N.M., was reported to be a minor when the relationship began.

Melgar said photos taken from a cell phone belonging to one of the woman's relatives show her while on trips with Morales, who was president of Bolivia from 2006-2019.

"The curious thing here is that she was a minor at the time and as we all know, for a minor to travel, she needed her parents' permission," he said.

The former leftist president has lived in Argentina since the end of last year after resigning amid protests after claiming re-election for a controversial fourth term.

The woman is reported to have flown to see Morales after he had fled to Mexico, and later when he settled in Argentina.

Melgar first revealed his ministry was investigating the alleged relationship on Monday.

The crime of rape is punishable under Bolivian law by between two and six years in prison, and the crime of human trafficking by up to 15 years' imprisonment.

Morales, single and a father of two, was reported in 2016 to be in a relationship with Gabriela Zapata, head of a Chinese company awarded Bolivian state contracts worth millions of dollars.

Bolivia's right-wing interim government has launched several investigations into Morales, including charges of sedition and terrorism for his role in the violence that occurred in the wake of the elections.

Neither Morales nor his Movement for Socialism (MAS) party have commented on the new accusations.

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