The Mexican Air Force (FAM) has revealed that a projectile was launched against the plane in which they rescued President Evo Morales, just as he took off from the Chimoré airport, in November 2019.
A document of the National Defense Secretariat, published in President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s latest book, details that, since the time they were at the airport, an element of the Bolivian armed forces targeted the aircraft, with an RPG rocket launcher.
“During the initial ascent, the pilot was able to observe from the left side of the cockpit, and nearing 1,500 feet above the ground, saw a light trail, similar to the characteristic of a rocket at the seven o’clock position below the horizon (…) The pilot estimates that, if it is a projectile, the point from which it was launched could be located in the vicinity of the Chimoré airport in Cochabamba”, read the document.
According to the pilot’s description, the light trail may have come from just that position.
“He made a tight turn to the opposite side of the projectile’s trajectory (right side) increasing the rate of climb to avoid impact, observing that the tracer, far below the aircraft, made a parabola towards the ground without having reached the height that at that moment they already had, approximately 3,000 feet above the ground (…),” he reveals.
The report states that the incident was not communicated to the crew to avoid increasing the tension of the diplomatic mission tasked with rescuing the former President and taking him to Mexico where he’d be granted asylum.
Armed elements were already in place upon the FAM’s arrival to the airport in Bolivia. Despite this, Evo Morales, Alvaro Garcia Linera and Gabriela Montaño managed to board the aircraft. However with everything set for takeoff, clearance was denied at the last minute, forcing the plane to return to its starting position. In doing so, the FAM elements realized that the military presence had increased, describing “a greater activity of armed personnel and armed vehicles on both sides of the runway, as well as in the vicinity of the taxi.”
Pilot Miguel Eduardo Hernández Velázquez got off the aircraft to try to communicate with the Secretary of National Defense, Luis Cresencio Sandoval, and report the situation.
After attempting without success, a first threat was made by the Bolivians to try to get Evo Morales off the plane. Armed elements of the Bolivian military then beat the Mexican pilot in order for him to agree to his demands.
“They ordered him to raise his arms, telling him to get Evo Morales off his plane. At that moment, another of the individuals approached him from behind and hit him in the lower back with the butt of a long gun, Garand type, so the pilot turned to the left to confront him (…)”.
“At which point another of the individuals, also in uniform, hit his abdomen with the flamebreaker of a light automatic rifle, loading his weapon and pointing it at his chest, for no apparent reason,” he says.
The document explains that the tension ended, after the pilot went to the individual who was pointing at him saying: “Young soldier, the brave do not murder.”
However, the threats were repeated about 10 minutes later, when another group of uniformed soldiers and armed civilians attempted to board the plane. According to the report, the pilot prevented it, standing in front of the access ladder, where another discussion took place.
After the verbal exchange, in which the Mexican pilot repeatedly asked that the rocket launcher stop pointing at the plane, a Bolivian general granted clearance for takeoff, but with one condition: they had only 30 minutes to leave the airspace.
“Emphatically indicating to me that he would not be responsible for the safety of the occupants or the integrity of the aircraft if this instruction was not complied with,” the document adds.
Evo’s former Minister of Health, Gabriela Montaño, reacted saying, “A lump came to my throat again, not just because I was on that plane too. But because of what could have happened in the country if they had achieved the objective of killing @evoespueblo. The shadows of the terror sown in the Bolivian people cannot go unpunished.” The former President also tweeted, saying, “The coupists tried to assassinate us and since they failed, now they are trying to eliminate us politically.”