Three mercenaries in the plot were yesterday killed in a shootout by police, Morales said on the eve of today’s summit. Arriving in Cumana, Venezuela yesterday where he attended a summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) hosted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Morales said two people were also arrested in relation to the plot.
The Bolivian president said security forces killed the three international mercenaries in the city of Santa Cruz la Sierra. Intelligence reports had warned of a plot by a group comprising Irish, Hungarian and Bolivian attackers, he said.
The three mercenaries were killed in a half-hour shootout at a hotel in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, which is 900 kilometres east of the capital of La Paz. The Bolivian police chief Hugo Escobar said two Hungarians and one Bolivian were killed in the shoot-out.
“Yesterday I gave instruction to the vice president to move to arrest these mercenaries and this morning I was informed of a half-hour shootout at a hotel in the city of Santa Cruz,” Morales was quoted as saying in a BBC report. “These foreigners are dead and two arrested.”
He added the plot had been to kill him, the vice president and a cabinet minister.
Morales, a socialist, is Bolivia’s first indigenous president and has faced tough opposition in relatively wealthy regions of the country, including Santa Cruz. Only on Tuesday, Morales ended a five day hunger strike on Tuesday after lawmakers passed an electoral law that creates more seats in indigenous areas where his support is strongest. Morales had stopped eating to pressure for the law to be passed.
Critics say the law stacks the electoral field in his favour ahead of a December presidential election which the former coca farmer is expected to win.
Morales has announced several plots against him in the past but the results of investigations have never been released, causing some Bolivians to doubt their veracity.
Last year, right-wing opposition groups launched violent protests against a new referendum promoted by Morales that gives more power to the indigenous majority. Morales expelled the US ambassador to Bolivia in September, accusing him of encouraging the protests in a bid to oust him.