Bolivia’s gold-and-emerald presidential medal, which dates back to the foundation of the republic in 1825, has been stolen in an overnight heist, the ministry of defence said Wednesday.
According to the ministry, the iconic medal was removed during the night on Tuesday “in circumstances that are still under investigation.”
“At the moment, the official entrusted with its security has been detained and an investigation has been opened (involving) senior officers at the palace guard,” the ministry said.
President Evo Morales showed off the presidential emblems — the medal and a tricolor sash — on August 6 as part of the celebrations marking the 193rd anniversary of Bolivia’s independence, AFP writes.
But on Wednesday, he appeared with neither the medal nor the sash as he made a speech during a military parade marking the foundation of the army, in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba.
“This is a hard blow for the republic, for the state,” said former president Carlos Mesa, who compared the heist to “the theft of the crown of Queen Elizabeth II of England.”
The medal was a gift from the Congress of the recently formed Bolivian republic to its founder in 1825 and was first used in 1826 as the presidential medal by Antonio Jose de Sucre.
The gold medal, encrusted with emeralds, is normally kept in a secure vault at the Central Bank but is delivered to the president for ceremonial occasions.
The defense ministry said the “intelligence service and all state institutions have been placed at the disposal of investigators to find those responsible for this theft as quickly as possible.”