Bolivia’s historic presidential medal and sash have been stolen from a car parked in a red light district in the city of El Alto.

A military officer said he had left the historic emblems in a rucksack in his car, while on his way to the airport. The bag was later found by police in a local church after a tip-off.

The gold medal is studded with emeralds and dates to the country’s foundation in 1825 when it was presented to national hero Simón Bolívar.

Former Bolivian President Carlos Mesa compared the crime to “the theft of the crown of Queen Elizabeth II of England”.

President Evo Morales was due to wear the emblems at the annual celebration of the armed forces on Wednesday but appeared without them.