Bolivian President Says Plot on His Life Was Tied to Coup Attempt
April 18, 2009 - New York Times


PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — Evo Morales, Bolivia’s president, said that a reported attempt to assassinate him last week was linked to a vote in Congress that would allow him to run for re-election, and he suggested the plot was related to a coup attempt last year that led him to expel the American ambassador.

Mr. Morales said earlier last week that an elite police squad shot dead three men in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz who were involved in a thwarted plot to kill him, his vice president and his chief of staff. They were killed after they opened fire on commandos who tried to enter their hotel room.

On Saturday Mr. Morales said the police had determined the plot involved European mercenaries, with Bolivians aiding in the planning. Investigators are looking into how the suspected plot was organized and financed, with Mr. Morales saying he did not believe that Bolivian businessmen and oligarchs “financed so much money.”

Opponents of Mr. Morales said it was too early to describe the episode as a foiled assassination plot without detailed proof.

Mr. Morales said the episode was related to his five-day hunger strike, which ended Tuesday. He fasted to protest delays in voting on a measure that could allow residents of a gas-rich area to seek administrative autonomy for their provinces and make him eligible for re-election.

He used the bulk of a press conference here to detail the history of what he believes to have been involvement by American officials in attempts to overthrow him. In September he expelled American ambassador Philip S. Goldberg, accusing him of supporting rebellious groups in eastern Bolivia. Mr. Morales also later threw out officials from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.

Mr. Morales said Saturday that he gave instructions to his vice president to intervene with certain “neo-liberal” groups. Police officers discovered arms, bombs and telescopic sights with silencers, he said.

Early Saturday, at a meeting of 12 South American leaders, the Bolivian president presented Mr. Obama, who was attending at the group’s invitation, with specific information about mercenaries who he said were operating in his country, said Bharrat Jagdeo, the president of Guyana, who attended the session. Mr. Obama responded in the meeting by saying that his administration does not promote the overthrow of any democratically elected head of state nor support assassination of leaders of any country, Mr. Jagdeo said. Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, confirmed the account.

Mr. Morales told reporters after the meeting that if Mr. Obama does not repudiate the alleged plot to kill him, “I might think it was organized through the embassy.”