Michael Dwyer’s mother criticises Bolivian government

Caroline Dwyer expresses her ‘disgust’ during trip to Bolivia to investigate son’s murder

Caroline Dwyer outside Bolivia’s foreign ministry in La Paz.

Caroline Dwyer outside Bolivia’s foreign ministry in La Paz.

 

Irish authorities have expressed “serious concerns” about the Bolivian government’s treatment of Michael Dwyer’s mother during a trip to the country to investigate her son’s killing.

Dwyer was shot dead along with two other men during a police raid on the hotel where he was staying in April 2009.

The Bolivian government insists they were terrorists who had opened fire on police. But the Irish man’s family says it has gathered evidence that shows he was executed and is calling for an international investigation.

Last week Caroline Dwyer flew to Bolivia with family adviser, Catherine Heaney, for a series of meetings with officials involved in her son’s case.

The Bolivian government made a commitment to facilitate the trip during President Evo Morales’s visit to Ireland last November.

The meetings were arranged with the help of authorities in La Paz and Dublin.

However, Mrs Dwyer and Ms Heaney were informed on their arrival in La Paz last Tuesday that the meetings could not take place because public prosecutors claimed they would prejudice an ongoing trial linked to her son’s case.

“We asked them why they could not have told us that before we came, but they were having none of it,” Mrs Dwyer said from La Paz.

“We expressed our absolute disgust and shock at how they had treated us.”

She also challenged the Bolivian explanation for cancelling the meetings, pointing out that most of the officials she was set to meet are not on the trial’s witness list.

Not prevented

After pressure from Mrs Dwyer, two officials were eventually made available to her.

One of them, a ballistics technician, told her he was unable to recall details of the case, while a forensics expert said he was only tangentially involved.

Meanwhile, Irish diplomats also put pressure on authorities in La Paz. A strongly worded letter was sent to Bolivian foreign minister David Coquehuanca, expressing concern at Mrs Dwyer’s treatment.

The letter requested that Mr Coquehuanca arrange for the meetings to take place before the Irish women depart from Bolivia.

However, Mrs Dwyer left the country on Monday without any further contact from the authorities.

“It was quite a fracture in the diplomatic route we have invested in this whole time,” said Ms Heaney. “It was a wild goose chase, and that is why it felt so wrong.”

Irish diplomatic sources in the region said bureaucratic incompetence might explain the trip’s failure.

Mrs Dwyer dismissed this suggestion.

“In my opinion, this was arrogance,” she said. “Up until July 5th and our trip to London to see the Bolivian ambassador, this was supposed to have all been sorted. But they never even contacted the people we were to meet.”

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it had notified Bolivia’s foreign ministry of its “serious concerns” about the failure to live up to “undertakings provided by the Bolivian Embassy in London, on behalf of the Bolivian Government”.

Martin disappointed

“The Dwyer family have been treated very shoddily by the Bolivian authorities,” he said.

Mr Martin, who has followed the case since the time of Dwyer’s death when he was minister for foreign affairs, raised the matter with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in a meeting last week.

Efforts by The Irish Times to contact Bolivia’s foreign and interior ministries in La Paz and the country’s embassy in London proved unsuccessful.