Dwyer 'second in command' of group, says cable

Thu, Jan 6, 2011, 00:00

A BOLIVIAN government minister told foreign diplomats that Irishman Michael Dwyer was the “second in command” of a group of alleged mercenaries, days after he and two colleagues were shot dead by police on April 16th, 2009.

In a briefing at the presidential palace in La Paz, then-minister of government Alfredo Rada also claimed the 24-year-old Tipperary man had “military and security experience”, according to a US diplomatic cable recounting details of the briefing and since published by the WikiLeaks website.

Dwyer had worked in the security industry in Ireland before travelling to Bolivia in 2008 for a bodyguard training course. But a family spokesman categorically denied he had any previous military experience. He was killed by police during a pre-dawn raid on his hotel in the eastern city of Santa Cruz along with Bolivian-born Eduardo Rózsa Flores, the group’s supposed leader, and Hungarian Árpad Magyarosi.

Two other men were arrested at the scene and have since been held without charge.

In the same briefing to diplomats, held five days after the raid, Bolivia’s vice-president said the men “attacked the police with gunfire and explosives”. Álvaro García Linera told diplomats that the men “were neither tourists nor random fanatics, but rather part of a structured terrorist cell that was well funded and trained”. He said the ultimate goal was to assassinate President Evo Morales, along with various members of his government and achieve secession for the restive opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz. But eyewitness testimony contradicts the claims made by the vice-president and Dwyer’s family are calling for an independent international inquiry into his death.

The leaked US cable warned that Mr García Linera’s promise to carry the Bolivian investigation to its “final conclusions” raised “fears of possible arrests of members of the Santa Cruz-based political opposition”. The US embassy in La Paz later came to suspect that Dwyer may have been lured to his death as part of a plot by Bolivia’s own intelligence services, according to a cable provided by the WikiLeaks website to Spanish daily El Pais. A local source described as well placed and reliable told US diplomats that Dwyer’s group had been hired by Bolivian intelligence to mount a phony terrorist campaign.

This would then be used to justify the persecution of Mr Morales’s political opponents. The source said Dwyer and his two colleagues were shot dead by police in order to “erase tracks”.

Last month the public prosecutor in charge of the case charged 39 people with involvement in the supposed conspiracy, including prominent opposition leaders.

Mr Rada was subsequently removed from the case after it emerged that a photo he presented to the media of what he said were secessionists undergoing training in a terrorist camp was in fact of paintball players which he had downloaded from the internet. Later dropped from government, he now faces trial for his role in the killing of three demonstrators during protests over the country’s new constitution in 2007.