Dwyer told girlfriend about work as bodyguard

 

THE IRISHMAN shot dead by police in Bolivia had told his local girlfriend that he was in the country working as a bodyguard.

Last night, the prosecutor in charge of the case was expected to report the initial findings of his investigation with opposition sources in Santa Cruz saying they expect local leaders to be called in for questioning.

In an interview on Tuesday night with a local television station, Rafaela Cotrin, a Brazilian studying medicine in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, says she met Tipperaryman Michael Dwyer before Christmas. She says he told her he was in the country working as a bodyguard for Eduardo Rózsa Flores, whom he described to her as an engineer.

She said she did not know what type of work Mr Flores was doing in Bolivia and that she only met him once, during a night out with Mr Dwyer at a bowling alley.

Mr Dwyer, Mr Flores and a third man were shot dead by police in a raid on a hotel in Santa Cruz in the early hours of April 16th. Police claim the three men were killed in a shoot-out. Two other members of the group were arrested at the scene.

Bolivia’s government and the prosecutor investigating the activities of the five men say they were terrorists who planned to assassinate the country’s left-wing president Evo Morales.

In a video recorded in Hungary last year and released after his death, Mr Flores, a Bolivian of Hungarian descent who also held Croatian citizenship after serving in a Croat militia during the Balkans conflict, said he had been invited to go to Santa Cruz to set up self-defence groups to take on government supporters.

Opposition leaders claim the men were summarily executed by police, and the government is now trying to link a broad swathe of the opposition to Mr Flores in an effort to discredit it ahead of presidential and congressional elections due in December.

The motor of the country’s economy, Santa Cruz, is the centre of opposition across eastern Bolivia to the indigenous-dominated government which draws most of its support from the poverty-stricken highlands in the west of the country. In recent years, a campaign for greater autonomy for eastern Bolivia has threatened to spill over into violence and split the country.

Ms Cotrin said she first met Mr Dwyer outside a cinema in a shopping mall as he was studying the show listings. She said as she spoke English she helped him out after noticing his Spanish was very poor. She described the 24-year old as charming and within one month the couple started a romantic relationship. She said Mr Dwyer was very polite, kind and gentle and spoke much about his family at home in Ireland.

She told the interviewer she could not believe Mr Dwyer was involved in terrorism. The one time she visited his hotel room, during the carnival holiday in the last week of February, she saw no sign of guns, just his rucksack and clothing.

She also said she never saw him handling large sums of money and that the couple split the costs of their nights out. Mr Dwyer seemed to spend most of his time in his hotel and much of it online, she said. Her last contact with him was on the night before he died and she said he seemed calm and she noticed nothing out of the ordinary.

The Irish Timeshas not yet seen the interview but has confirmed its details with local journalists who have. Two men were arrested in Santa Cruz on Tuesday evening as part of the investigation into the group around Mr Flores. Both were arrested on suspicion of having provided weapons which police say are linked to the group.

One of the men was named as 48-year-old Juan Carlos Gueder Bruno, who had links with the Union of Cruceño Youth, a hard-line grouping within the broader autonomous movement in Santa Cruz. The identity of the second man has not yet been confirmed.

The union says it exists to defend Santa Cruz’s identity against the encroachments of the central government. Critics say it is often involved in violence during pro-autonomy protests and contains members who openly express racist and fascist views.