In the early hours of April 16, 2009, a heavily armed special forces unit of the Bolivian police crept into a downtown hotel in the eastern city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. They made their way to two upstairs rooms and burst in. Within minutes, three European guests had been shot and killed.
When news of the raid broke, the Bolivian authorities said little - except that the dead men had been plotting to kill Bolivia’s left-wing president, Evo Morales, and had fiercely resisted arrest.
Two other Europeans survived the raid on the Hotel de las Americas and were taken away to the capital La Paz for interrogation.
So who were these mysterious Europeans? How did they come to be in Santa Cruz? And were they really - as the Bolivian authorities alleged - involved in a conspiracy to destabilise the South American country and assassinate its head of state? Or were they, as others have since suggested, the hapless victims of a bitter power struggle between autonomy activists in one of Bolivia’s most prosperous regions and the first indigenous president in the country’s history.
Four years later, the disturbing answers behind this extraordinary episode are beginning to emerge. As filmmaker Risteard O' Domhnaill reveals in this multi-faceted investigation for People & Power, it is a story with an unusual cast and the most unlikely origins.
Tracing the alleged conspirators back to Hungary, Romania and the Republic of Ireland, he picks his way through a murky world of international intrigue, freelance security guards, Bolivia’s complex politics, the Balkans war, and the naive ambition of at least one young man in search of adventure.
Along the way he meets some of the families of those who died - still struggling to understand exactly why their relatives were killed before they had a chance to defend themselves in a court of law - and finds out how and why the men’s self-appointed leader, a charismatic Bolivian-born Hungarian journalist, had managed to entice them to another continent thousands of miles from home.
Part mystery story, part morality tale, part human tragedy, Bolivian Escapade sheds fresh light on a controversy that still divides the country to this day.
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