Photographs of Dwyer group leaked to media

 

OFFICERS INVESTIGATING the circumstances surrounding the shooting dead by police of Irishman Michael Dwyer and two others in Bolivia a week ago say they have found photos of Mr Dwyer’s group associating with locals from the city of Santa Cruz.

The motives and movements of the group Mr Dwyer is known to have formed part of since the beginning of January are so far largely unknown.

The government claims that Mr Dwyer and his associates were “terrorist mercenaries” and part of a plan by the local right-wing opposition to assassinate President Evo Morales and destabilise the country’s left-wing government.

In a video recorded before he left Hungary, the group’s supposed leader Eduardo Rózsa Flores, said he had been asked by a previously unheard of organisation he called the Council of Santa Cruz to return to the land of his birth “to organise the defence of Santa Cruz, because indigenous militias and pro-government elements are causing trouble there”.

The two police officers involved in the investigation told a television station that the locals in the photos will soon be called in for questioning about their links with the group.

The officers said the photos were recovered from what police are calling the group’s operations base, located in a stand in the city’s main exhibition hall where a cache of weapons was recovered shortly after the three men were killed.

The statements by the two police officers are the latest in a series by police and high-ranking government officials that seek to link Mr Dwyer’s group to the country’s opposition, whose stronghold is Santa Cruz.

Opposition leaders have rejected the government’s claims saying it has as yet produced no evidence to back them up and is using the case to smear it and cow its supporters ahead of elections in December.

Several leading opposition figures say the police summarily executed the three men.

Mr Dwyer was killed alongside Mr Rózsa Flores, a Bolivian of Hungarian extraction, and Hungarian Arpad Magyarosi. Another Hungarian and a Bolivian holding a Croat passport were arrested at the scene.

Government minister Alfredo Rada told local media that the names of those who financed the group would be released after a cabinet meeting later yesterday.

In a separate television interview Mr Rada also showed what he said was a photo that showed a Santa Cruz activist Mauricio Iturri with a group of seven other men all armed and dressed in camouflage.

On the radical fringes of the movement for greater autonomy for Santa Cruz, Mr Iturri is reportedly a leader of a small group called Resistance, though he now lives in Miami. A government newspaper also published a photo of what it said was Mr Rózsa Flores sleeping with an Uzi submachine gun and an M16 rifle. The photo was supposedly taken in a Santa Cruz hotel where he stayed for several weeks last year.

Local media questioned the veracity of the photo saying it appeared to have been photo-shopped. But a local photographic expert told The Irish Times that on balance it appeared genuine.

The public prosecutor in charge of the investigation into Mr Dwyer and his associates said his team had not leaked the photos to the minister or the newspaper, even while reiterating that all the material relating to the investigation was under his control.

He also refused to comment on whether the Bolivian associates of the group had been identified.

It has also emerged that shortly after Mr Rózsa Flores arrived in Santa Cruz last year he went to interview Gary Prado Salmón, the retired Bolivian general who hunted down the Argentinian revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.

In the video recorded before he left Hungary, Mr Rózsa Flores said: “I am not going to the jungle to play Che Guevara.” Guevara was captured and summarily executed by the Bolivian army near Santa Cruz in 1967. The retired general said Mr Rózsa Flores presented himself as a simple journalist and seemed “very sensible”.