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Impeachment of Bolivian Supreme Court President, Judge Recommended

January 11, 1994

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) _ A congressional committee recommended Monday the impeachment and suspension of Supreme Court President Edgar Oblitas and Judge Ernesto Poppe on charges of corruption.

Congress is expected to follow the recommendation and remove the two, who are accused of soliciting bribes from Antonio Ibarra, a former Nicaraguan government official. They promised in return to thwart Ibarra’s extradition to Nicaragua, where he is wanted on corruption charges, authorities said.

The accusations were based on a sting operation undertaken by Bolivia with the assistance of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents. Ibarra, who is also a U.S. citizen, cooperated with authorities in carrying out the sting.

Edil Sandoval Moron, president of the Constitutional Committee of the House of Deputies presented a report recommending impeachment. That would end three months of hearings that have become front-page news in Bolivia.

Oblitas and Poppe deny soliciting bribes and say the government is trying to control the judiciary. Oblitas says Washington wants him out because the court denied several extradition requests against suspected drug traffickers.

Ibarra says the bribes were solicited by former Supreme Court Judge Hugo Galindo Decker, allegedly on behalf of Poppe and Oblitas. Galindo Decker was arrested last October.

Government charges were backed by undercover videos and audio tapes showing Galindo Decker requesting and receiving money from Ibarra.

The secretary-general of the Supreme Court, Pablo Ruiz, was arrested last week after Carmelo ″Meco″ Dominguez, a major drug trafficker, testified he paid Ruiz $120,000 on behalf of Poppe, Oblitas and other judges to receive a lesser sentence for cocaine dealings.