Webs of intrigue tangle Bolivia conspiracy case

Bolivian authorities say the dismantling of a commando made up mainly of foreign mercenaries could lead to the people behind around a dozen different attacks carried out since 2006 in the city of Santa Cruz. Bolivian Vice President 脕lvaro Garc铆a Linera said the attacks were aimed at destabilizing the government of Evo Morales and were to culminate in the assassination of the president. He said business leaders and landowners in the eastern province of Santa Cruz were financing the clandestine operations by the five alleged terrorists, three of whom were shot and killed by the police.

The leader of the opposition-controlled Senate, Santa Cruz businessman Oscar Ortiz, questioned the official report that the men were killed in a shootout, and said he suspected they were simply murdered by the police. According to witnesses, however, police had attempted to arrest the men in downtown Santa Cruz, and they fled to a hotel, where a half-hour shootout came to an end when the alleged plotters reportedly detonated a grenade inside their hotel room.

Santa Cruz governor Rub茅n Costas, Morales’ most prominent political opponent and one of four governors who have sought autonomy for their provinces, initially suggested that the supposed assassination plot was staged, although he is now demanding an impartial investigation. The right-wing Santa Cruz Civic Committee, led by local business leaders and landowners, is demanding to see the evidence and photos of the commando that the government says it has.

No investigation has so far clarified the months-long escalation of bomb and arson attacks that have targeted the homes of cabinet ministers, government officials and opposition leaders in Santa Cruz since Morales took office in January 2006. However, the April 15 attack on the Santa Cruz home of Roman Catholic Cardinal Julio Terrazas, which was carried out with military-style plastic explosives, caused a public outcry. Terrazas was out of town at the time of the attack, for which no one claimed responsibility.

The gun battle in the Las Am茅ricas hotel in Santa Cruz occurred the following night. The police reported that members of an elite anti-terrorist unit had been involved in a gunfight with a far-right group of mercenaries, and that three men were killed: Romanian-Hungarian Magyarosi Arpak, Irishman Michael Dwyer and Bolivian Eduardo R贸zsa Flores, who also apparently holds Hungarian and Croatian passports. Two others were arrested: Bolivian-Croatian Ramiro Francisco Tadic and Romanian-Hungarian Elod Toaso.

The police also reported that they found a cache of rifles, munitions, and plastic explosives similar to those used in the attack on Terrazas’ home, as well as the lid of a container that might have been used to hold the explosives in the bombing attempt the night before. The arsenal was found in a marketplace warehouse belonging to the Cooperativa de Tel茅fonos de Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a company owned by local business leaders who are active in the opposition.

In September 2008, one of the three men who were killed, Eduardo R贸zsa Flores, a Bolivian journalist from Santa Cruz who fought in the Balkans war, had taped an interview with a Hungarian TV personality “in case anything happens to me.” In the interview, which was broadcast by the Hungarian MTV station after the news of his death came out, R贸zsa Flores said he had been invited by the opposition in Bolivia to set up an armed force to protect the autonomy of the Santa Cruz region. He also said, “We are ready, within a few months in case co-existence doesn’t work under autonomy, to proclaim independence and create a new country.”

R贸zsa Flores, the son of a Communist militant who settled in Santa Cruz, was commander of an international brigade in the Croatian independence struggle made up of 380 mercenaries from 20 different countries. There are indications he saw the Croatian independence struggle as a model for his native Santa Cruz. (IPS, April 26)

Rozsa Flores said in a Budapest TV interview last year that he was returning to Bolivia to organize a militia for Santa Cruz. “There is a need for weapons,” he said in the interview, which was broadcast for the first time in Hungary last week after his killing, “so it isn’t about the boys marching in the streets with flags and bamboo sticks.” At one point in the interview, he said his goal was not toppling Morales, but achieving autonomy for Santa Cruz. Yet at another point, he referred to “declaring independence and creating a new country.”

“These terrorists were connected to an ideology of the extreme fascist right,” Garc铆a Linera said, while Morales himself described the cell as a “tentacle of a structure” intent on killing him. Yet the New York Times reports that Rozsa Flores鈥攄escribed as the son of a Hungarian Jewish immigrant to Bolivia鈥攁pparently “came into contact with” the notorious ultra-left terrorist Ilich Ram铆rez S谩nchez AKA “Carlos the Jackal” in Hungary, while studying linguistics there in his youth. Despite his earlier association with the far-right secretive Catholic organization Opus Dei, Rozsa Flores is also described by the Times as a convert to Islam.

Doubt has been cast on Garc铆a Linera’s claim that the three were killed in a 30-minute gunfight. An insurance report filed for the hotel and obtained by La Raz贸n newspaper apparently found no signs of an exchange of gunfire. “What happened was the killing of three people who were sleeping, which means murder,” said 脫scar Ortiz, president of Bolivia’s Senate and a top opponent of President Morales.

Alfredo Rada, a senior minister, made things worse when he went on TV with images of men in Santa Cruz clasping weapons, claiming they were linked to those killed. But the men in the photos, lifted from a Facebook page, debunked the claim by explaining that they practiced “airsoft,” a pellet-gun game. (NYT, April 28)

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  1. Oil, neo-Nazi connections claimed in Bolivian conspiracy
    From Ireland for The Independent, May 3:

    The Bolivian authorities have claimed that Michael Dwyer, the Tipperary man shot dead by police two weeks ago, was heavily involved in a neo-Nazi terror group Szekler.

    Last week the Bolivian government released pictures of Mr Dwyer and other members of the group posing for photographs surrounded by guns. The group is also suspected of planting a bomb at the home of a Catholic cardinal in Bolivia, the day before he and two Hungarian terrorists were shot dead….

    One of Rozsa-Flores’ closest associates, also a Hungarian, is living in Ireland and met Michael Dwyer when they worked together for the security firm I-RMS during its contract with Shell. I-RMS was making no comment on the affair but sources in the security industry said the Hungarian they employed had proper credentials and has no known criminal record in Hungary or elsewhere.

    On Friday the Bolivian government released pictures taken from cameras found in the rooms in the four-star hotel where five member of the gang were staying. The pictures include several of Dwyer holding guns and rifles.

    The 32-year-old Hungarian ex-soldier travelled to Bolivia with Dwyer on October 20 along with two other Hungarians. While Dwyer stayed on, the three Hungarians returned, two to Hungary and the 32-year-old ex-soldier to Cavan. It is believed he and a number of other men of east European nationality attended Dwyer’s funeral in Tipperary on Thursday but did not speak to any mourners.

    Despite repeated claims that Mr Dwyer was an innocent party and had been associated with “adventurers”, photographs released by the Bolivian authorities last week show he was heavily armed and close with the terrorist ring-leader Rosza-Torres, a man who has been implicated in ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia and who, at his own admission, was actively seeking the overthrow of left-wing Bolivian president Evo Morales.

    He is also believed to be an active member of Szekler, led by Fozsa-Flores until he was shot dead in Santa Cruz.

    In one of the pictures apparently taken on New Year’s Day, Dwyer and Rosza-Flores are sitting at a table covered with firearms and ammunition smiling to the camera.

    Despite repeated claims that Dwyer was a fun-loving young man with an interest in cars he had a Nazi SS insignia tattooed on his arm. The tattoo was disguised in an elaborate, larger design but is clearly visible on his arm. He joked about it with associates on his Facebook page.

    Gardai [plural for the Garda S铆och谩na, Ireland’s national police] are now investigating the activities of the neo-fascist Hungarians and Romanians in Ireland who have come here in recent years.

    We have noted before the close ties between foreign oil companies and Bolivia’s militant right-wing opposition. The Szeklers were a martial settler caste sent to colonize the eastern frontiers of Hungary and defend it from Asiatic invaders in medieval times. The Hungarian minority in Romania today (chiefly in Transylvania) are still known as Szeklers. (See the website of the Zabola Estate, a branch of Transylvania’s traditional Szekler nobility recently restored to their ancestral lands).