Reproduced from The Intercept with thanks.
In a press conference on 18 October, Bolivian government officials alleged that the mercenaries were in Bolivia with orders to assassinate Luis Arce, then the leading leftist candidate for president. Arce served as finance minister under former president Evo Morales and was the presidential nominee of his party, Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS.
Bolivian authorities connected the plot to an effort, previously reported by The Intercept, by ex-defence minister Luis Fernando López to import US mercenaries into Bolivia ahead of the election to block the left from returning to power after Morales had been ousted in a coup a year earlier.
According to the minister of government Carlos Del Castillo del Carpio, Rivera, who goes by ‘Colonel Mike’, entered Bolivia on 16 October 2020 under passport no AV969623, two days before the Bolivian election. He came into Bolivia from Colombia via the Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz and stayed at the Hotel Presidente in La Paz, near the presidential palace.
The Intercept could not immediately independently verify the Bolivian government claims.
The Haitian president assassins were organised by the Doral, Florida-based security contractor Counter Terrorism Unit Federal Academy LLC, which is run by Antonio Enmanuel Intriago Valera and Arcángel Pretel Ortiz, who acted as a recruiter. Both Pretel and Intriago entered Bolivia between 16 and 19 October, Bolivian officials said. Like Rivera, they entered via Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz, the home base of the country’s right-wing opposition.
Two other men – Ronal Alexander Ramírez Salamanca, a former member of the Colombian police, and Enrico Galindo Arias – entered through the Colombia-Viru Viru route, later staying with Rivera at the Hotel Presidente. As Del Castillo highlighted, the hotel is just blocks away from Plaza Murillo, where Arce’s presidential inauguration later took place.
At the press conference on 18 October, Del Castillo said that the government had obtained and searched the emails of Joe Pereira, who The Intercept had identified as an organiser of a mercenary plot with López, the ex-defence minister, and that documents found in his possession confirmed the reporting. Del Castillo added that the newly uncovered documents laid out the specific goal of assassinating Arce.
The Intercept previously obtained audio of Pereira conspiring with López by phone. On the calls, López implicated ex-interior minister Arturo Murillo as supportive of the plan. Murillo has since been arrested in the United States and faces corruption-related charges.
According to Del Castillo, Pereira’s emails indicated that he sought to hire more than 300 mercenaries, including a former Blackwater contractor and a shooter who had trained with the US military. (In the call shared with The Intercept, Pereira had promised López he could recruit “up to 10,000 men”.)
The Bolivian plot did not come to fruition. Arce dominated the field, making a run-off unnecessary by winning 55 percent of the vote and crushing the right-wing candidate by 40 points. The extent of the victory appears to have drained the energy of the renewed coup plotting.