Bolivia investigates 35 Catholic Church members over sex abuse

Agence France Presse [Paris, France]

June 28, 2023

Bolivian prosecutors are investigating 35 members of the Catholic Church after more than a dozen victims accused them of sexual abuse, authorities said Tuesday.

The statement comes as the country is reeling from confessions of abuse that were found in the personal diary of a Spanish priest who died in Bolivia in 2009 after decades of service there.

“At present, 35 people are accused and under investigation,” Daniela Caceres, a department head at the Bolivian attorney general’s office, told a press conference. 

“We have 17 people, identified victims, but out of respect and as a precaution for the protection of the victims, we are not going to give specific details,” she added. 

Prosecutors opened an investigation following a report by the Spanish daily El Pais in April about the late Spanish priest Alfonso Pedrajas, whose diary indicated that he had abused more than 80 minors in Bolivia, where he had lived since the early 1970s. 

Pedrajas also noted in his journal that senior clergy had known about his crimes and kept quiet.

Prosecutors on Tuesday confirmed that a copy of Pedrajas’ diary had been delivered to them by the Society of Jesus in Bolivia.

But Caceres said the diary was not complete, with some pages skipped and some passages crossed out and erased.

She said Bolivian authorities will try to obtain the complete document or request the cooperation of Spanish prosecutors.

In a letter released in mid-June by Bolivian President Luis Arce, Pope Francis expressed his “shame and dismay” at the sexual abuse committed by the clerics and vowed to shed light on what happened. 

Arce’s government has discussed with the Vatican the need to improve controls to prevent priests with a history of sex offenses from entering the country.

The Catholic Church has also set up four commissions to receive and process complaints.