Never-graduating student leader arrested in Bolivia for embezzlement

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Mendoza was reportedly earning almost as much as a university rector or as President Luis Arce A 52-year-old Bolivian student leader who has spent the last 33 years of his life unsuccessfully pursuing a law degree has been arrested over fudgy dealings as president of the Bolivian University Confederation (CUB).

According to La Paz Prosecutor William Alave, Max Mendoza, aged 52, “would have benefited in an irregular manner” from a monthly salary of BOB 21,870 (about US$ 3,150) from the university students’ union. This salary is similar to that of a university rector and even to that of the president of Bolivia, who earns around US$3,500 per month.

“The ex-university leader Max Mendoza, by determination of the Public Ministry, was arrested,” Government [Interior] Minister Eduardo del Castillo announced Saturday.

According to reports, Mendoza has been studying several courses since 1989, has failed 200 subjects, and obtained zero gradings in more than 100 exams. He had denied the accusations last week saying they were “slander.”

“We have not received a single penny that is not correct and legal,” he assured. His case gained notoriety after a stampede at a student assembly that left four dead and 70 injured amid disputes between groups. Mendoza was said to be one of the promoters of the assembly with the alleged aim of favoring leaders loyal to him.

“We have criminally denounced” Mendoza for having turned his position “into a business,” said pro-government lawmaker Héctor Arce at a press conference. Mendoza «is 52 years old, has been studying for 33 years in a university, has failed more than 200 subjects, has zero in more than 100 subjects [and] had a salary of 21,860 bolivianos (about 3,150 dollars) per month“ as a student leader, he added the congressman.

In Bolivia ”it is [good] business to be a university leader, why study [and graduate] if you have many benefits?“ he added.

Mendoza first enrolled in business administration and then he has been studying law for 25 years, although a degree takes about five years to complete in Bolivia, where student organizations at public universities receive contributions from the state but was not public knowledge that their leaders have a ”salary“.

The criminal complaint against Mendoza, who has been CUB leader for four years, is for the alleged crimes of ”illicit enrichment, benefit by reason of the position, anti-economic conduct, and embezzlement.“

According to local media, Mendoza’s is not an isolated case. Student leaders cling to their chairs because of the benefits they obtain.

In a heated assembly May 9 at the state-owned Tomás Frías University in the Andean city of Potosí, an attendee threw a tear gas grenade, which caused an avalanche that left four students dead.

”All this great majority of allegations that have been presented are largely slanderous to the Bolivian University Confederation and the Local University Federations (FUL),“ Mendoza claimed through a video on social media. ”We are going to defend ourselves,» he added.