Bolivian Government Says Haitian President’s Assassins Were Part of a Plot to Kill Its Own Leftist Leader

Citing a previous Intercept investigation, the Bolivian government said it has evidence of a plan to kill Luis Arce, a protégé of Evo Morales.

Bolivia President Luis Arce speaks during a morning briefing at the National Palace on March 24, 2021, in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo: Hector Vivas/Getty Images

Mercenaries involved in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July traveled to Bolivia ahead of the country’s election late last year, according to Bolivian authorities. In a press conference on Monday, 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.


Colombian Mercenaries and the Assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse

Bolivian authorities connected the plot to an effort, previously reported by The Intercept, by ex-Defense Minister Luis Fernando López to import U.S. 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.

Leading the advance team in Haiti that ultimately assassinated the president, according to Colombian authorities, was Colombian mercenary German Alejandro Rivera García, now held in Haitian custody.

According to the Minister of Government Carlos Del Castillo del Carpio, Rivera, who goes by “Colonel Mike,” entered Bolivia on October 16, 2020, under passport No. AV 969623, 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 organized 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 October 16 and 19, 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 Monday, Del Castillo said that the government had obtained and searched the emails of Joe Pereira, who The Intercept had identified as an organizer of a mercenary plot with López, the ex-defense 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 U.S. 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 runoff 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.

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