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Viewing cable 09LAPAZ635, BOLIVIA: "TERRORISM" EXCUSE FOR MASS ARRESTS?

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09LAPAZ635 2009-04-29 21:09 2010-12-29 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy La Paz
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #0635/01 1192120
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 292120Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0642
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 8966
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 6348
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0322
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 7531
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 4578
RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0475
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 4913
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 6259
RUEHSP/AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN 0555
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 7196
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 1960
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 1767
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L LA PAZ 000635

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/28/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM PHUM PINR ENVR ASEC PTER BL
SUBJECT: BOLIVIA: "TERRORISM" EXCUSE FOR MASS ARRESTS?

REF: A. LA PAZ 600
B. LA PAZ 593

Classified By: A/EcoPol Chief Joe Relk for reasons 1.4 (b, d)

1. (C) Summary: The Morales administration may use an April
16 police team raid in opposition-dominated Santa Cruz, in
which police shot and killed three alleged terrorists,
arrested two more, and reportedly found a separate weapons
cache (Reftels A, B), to initiate arrests of the political
opposition. On April 28, the government arrested two
additional suspects and identified more, one of whom is an
Embassy contact and leader of a human rights NGO. Some
opposition members speculated that Vice President Alvaro
Garcia Linera and Presidency Minister Juan Ramon Quintana
orchestrated the April 16 raid to provide a rationale for
such arrests. Post's Cruceno contacts did not return
repeated calls. Government targets reportedly include
ex-Civic Committee President Branko Marinkovic, Prefect Ruben
Costas, and leaders of CAINCO (Santa Cruz Chamber of Trade
and Industry). Quintana and Defense Minister Walker San
Miguel provided conflicting reasons for ordering some 1,500
troops to Santa Cruz department (state), further raising
Cruceno suspicions of government actions. While Costas has
called for calm, some Crucenos are reportedly forming
fighting groups. Government-aligned media have reported on
potential USAID and CIA involvement with the alleged
terrorists. End summary.

- - - - - - - - - -
More Terrorists?
- - - - - - - - - -

2. (U) On April 28, police arrested two more men, one of them
an ex-security advisor to the Cruceno Youth Union (UJC) Juan
Carlos Gueder Bruno and the other Alcides Mendoza Masavi,
alias "Commander Mojeno." Police said the two arrested men
had supplied arms to the alleged terrorists. Police also
said they believed there were three other terrorist cell
members involved, largely based on an interview Rozsa gave
before leaving Hungary, in which he said "only five people
know of my arrival (in Santa Cruz)." According to Gueder
Bruno's wife, the police did not show an arrest warrant, as
required by law.

3. (C) A report in leading local daily La Razon also cited
the release of an arrest warrant for human rights lawyer Hugo
Acha Melgar, husband of opposition alternate Congress member
Roxana Gentile (UN party). PolOffs met twice with Acha in
Santa Cruz, who was investigating the September 2008 Pando
conflict in his capacity as head of Human Rights Foundation -
Bolivia, an affiliate of the larger Human Rights Foundation
group. He was preparing a report detailing a high degree of
Morales administration involvement to provoke violence in
Pando. Acha confided to PolOffs that he was under constant
threat by groups affiliated with the ruling Movement Toward
Socialism party (MAS), and that he was unable to travel to La
Paz for fear of arbitrary detention. Acha gave MILGP a copy
of a late 2008 warrant issued for his arrest, which he said
was related solely to his continued Pando investigations.
According to Gentile, Acha is currently in the U.S.

4. (U) Police also identified Alejandro Melgar Pereira as a
member of the terrorist cell and the purchaser of a vehicle
for Rozsa, which was supposedly sighted at Cardinal Terrazas'
home the night of the April 14 bomb explosion. The car had
been the property of Carlos Guillen, president of popular
Santa Cruz company Blooming. Melgar, reportedly in hiding,
was president of the Center for Arbitration and
Reconciliation for CAINCO, Santa Cruz's Chamber of Trade and
Industry, from 1997 to 2001 and president of Cotas from 2000
to 2001. Police said he had aliases of "El Viejo, Superman,
and Lucas." According to CAINCO, Melgar is currently on
their list of recommended lawyers, but holds no official
position.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
"Proofs" of Terror Cell
- - - - - - - - - - - -

5. (U) While the government has asserted it recovered large
amounts of information in the April 16 raid, it said it has
released only "10 percent" of its information. Thus far, the
government's statements have been limited to assertions and
two contested "proofs," detailed below.

6. (U) Government Minister Alfredo Rada first presented on
April 22 a series of pictures which he stated showed Cruceno
right-wing activist Mauricio Iturri practicing shooting in a
terrorist training camp with a large group of well-organized
paramilitaries. Rada said Iturri was connected with Rozsa's
terrorist cell. However, news quickly leaked that not only
was Iturri not actually in the picture, but the pictures were
downloaded by Rada from the popular website Facebook and
showed only a team of paintball players. The government
subsequently removed Rada from the case.

7. (U) On April 26, government investigator Sosa held a press
conference in which he showed images taken from a cell phone
video purportedly showing Rozsa, Magyarosi, and Dwyer talking
about the possibilities of killing President Morales. Sosa
said the three were discussing how to throw explosives and
about a missed opportunity to blow up a ship in Lake Titicaca
where government officials had met. Sosa concluded that
"with this evidence it is confirmed that the dismantled gang
came to the country with terrorist purposes" and termed their
goal "magnicide" (i.e. assassination of a king or ruler).
However, according to press reports, while it does appear the
three are captured in the video, the video's soundtrack is
almost completely unintelligible. Sosa said he would soon
unveil the source of the video, whom press reports guessed
was Rozsa's chauffeur, but that he was "gravely ill" with
diabetes and therefore could not appear publicly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Troops Sent to Santa Cruz
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

8. (U) Presidency Minister Quintana and Defense Minister
Walker San Miguel confirmed April 27 that 1500 troops had
been sent to Santa Cruz department, but they gave conflicting
reasons for their presence. Quintana said the troops had
been sent in response to the "terrorism outbreak," while San
Miguel said the only reason was to reinforce the borders
against increased narco-trafficking. Other news reports said
40 percent of the Bolivian armed forces were now concentrated
in the department. According to official reports, troops
were being sent to Santa Cruz frontier zones, including San
Jose de Chiquitos, San Matias, and Robore.

9. (C) According to April 27 reporting from Santa Cruz,
troops were moving in the department, but it was impossible
to verify the number and their destinations. Some
interviewed said there were as few as 250, while others
confirmed the number of troops was 1500 and that of these 300
had riot control gear. Sources reported that Crucenos are
developing fighting/defense groups and are equipped with
weapons such as long rifles and hand guns.

10. (U) Santa Cruz Prefect Ruben Costas issued a call to
"maintain the peace" and said the only purpose for the
increase in troops in the department "was to frighten the
public." Santa Cruz is currently calm.

- - - - - - - - -
Rumors Run Rampant
- - - - - - - - -

11. (C) Post has reached out to several contacts in Santa
Cruz, including CAINCO and Civic Committee members, but none
will return our calls, at least directly. At CAINCO, only
secretaries are "available," while at the Santa Cruz Civic
Committee, phones are simply off the hook. Many Crucenos
believe the central government has tapped their phones.

12. (C) In meetings in La Paz, a contact who said he was
close to Branko Marinkovic and other Cruceno leaders told
Poloff that Vice President Garcia Linera and Presidency
Minister Quintana had planned the entire sequence of events
over the last six months, including the recruitment of
Rozsa's group to "get Branko," Costas, and others. However,
he was not able to further source the rumor. According to an
article in Spanish newspaper El Pais (reprinted in local
Bolivian press), a source called "Comandante Gonzalo" also
said the Bolivian government had hired Rozsa in August 2008.

13. (C) There is also rampant speculation about President
Morales' traditional May 1st speech, in which he is expected
by many to announce nationalization of companies based in
Santa Cruz, potentially including Cotas or food industries.
If the latter, many expect Branko Marinkovic's cooking oil
and other companies to be taken in the name of "food
security."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Rumors Fueled by Public Statements
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

14. (U) The rumor mill has been fueled by public statements
by the government and affiliated social groups. On April 26,
President Morales said he had asked his legal advisors to
draw up a supreme decree allowing the government to
confiscate goods from businesses and their owners linked to
terrorism. Constitutional experts were in general agreement
that the new constitution does not permit such seizures, but
Vice President Garcia Linera said "one of the basic
principles of the constitution is the unity of Bolivians...
who are directed to sanction those who seek to create
material and violent conditions to separate the country."
Further, state news cited the 2002 Organization of American
States (OAS) Convention Against Terrorism, which the newscast
said approved confiscation of property from terrorists.

15. (U) The same day, social group leader Isaac Avalos
accused ex-Civic Committee President Branko Marinkovic of
hiring the group of alleged terrorists. Avalos said he did
not have any proof, but that "several campesinos" had told
him they recognized Rozsa from past public acts in which
Marinkovic participated as Committee president.

16. (U) On April 28, the prosecutor's office reported they
would announce a list of people who had provided economic
assistance to the alleged terrorists within 48 hours. Vice
President Garcia Linera said the state would be "merciless"
with those behind the plot.

- - - - - - - - -
USG Also Targeted?
- - - - - - - - -

17. (U) A day earlier, on April 27, government-aligned news
service Bolpress published a report on a supposed complex
international web of support for the alleged terrorist cell.
The article cited Vice President Garcia Linera as requesting
Argentinean collaboration to find former members of the
"carapintadas" (members of the Argentine army who rioted
against the government as part of the country's "Dirty War")
affiliated with Rozsa, including one Jorge Mones Ruiz. Mones
Ruiz, according to the article, came to Bolivia in December
2008 as part of the Colombian foundation "UnoAmerica," an
"ultra-right group" associated with the Heritage Foundation
and dependent on the CIA for funding. The article states
that "UnoAmerica" is supported by USAID and the National
Endowment Foundation (NED), which it calls the "social face"
of the CIA and a major funder of opposition movements in


South America.

18. (U) Also on April 27, President Morales (somewhat
cryptically) identified the U.S. as "the source of my
troubles," and said "the people will rise above" attempts by
any outside force "to humiliate the Bolivian government." On
the other hand, in its April 26 editorial, state newspaper
Cambio trumpeted offers to help in the search for the
terrorists, specifically including a statement by Charge and
members of the OAS.

- - - - - - - - - - -
Background: April 16
- - - - - - - - - - -

19. (U) At approximately 4 a.m. on April 16, members of an
elite police force raided a room on the fourth floor of the
Hotel Las Americas in downtown Santa Cruz. After instructing
the hotel staff to turn off all security cameras, the police
stormed hotel rooms of five men, killing three and arresting
two others. The three killed were Eduardo Rozsa Flores, a
Bolivian with multiple passports including Hungarian and
Croatian; Michael Dwyer, Irishman; and Arpad Magyarosi, a
Romanian of Hungarian descent. The police captured Mario
Tadic Astorga, a Bolivian of Croatian descent, and Elod
Toaso, a Hungarian. Initial reports, including a statement
from Vice President Garcia Linera, indicated there was a
30-minute gun battle between the police and the alleged
terrorists, but Hungarian Ambassador to Argentina Matyas
Jozsa said he believed the three were simply executed,
without any fight. Later press reports stated that an
examination of the hotel rooms showed no bullet holes in the
facing wall, and that one of the three was found in the
morgue with his hands bound.

20. (U) The same morning, police investigations turned up a
supposed weapons cache in the Santa Cruz EXPOCRUZ
fairgrounds, in the stand of telephone cooperative Cotas. one
of Santa Cruz's leading companies. The weapons cache at
first reportedly included pistols, dynamite, C4 explosives,
and ammunition corresponding to 5.56mm weapons. Vice
President Garcia Linera commented that some of the weapons
were not available in Bolivia and were evidence of an
international conspiracy. Through this discovery, police
linked the captured men to an April 14 explosion at Cardinal
Julio Terrazas official residence in Santa Cruz and a March
29 attack on Deputy Autonomy Minister Saul Avalos' Santa Cruz
home, in which the police reported the same kind of
explosives were used. However, in later news reports Defense
Minister Walker San Miguel was quoted as saying that many of
the weapons were stolen from a Bolivian military station on
the Paraguay border in December 2008, while other media
reported that many of the weapons were antique and unusable,
with some from the War of the Chaco in the mid-1930s.

- - - - - - -
Toaso Beaten?
- - - - - - -

21. (U) According to an April 28 statement by the Defensor
del Pueblo (human rights ombudsman), Elod Toaso was severely
beaten and abused during his arrest. A website,
www.toasoelod.com, showed pictures of his injuries to his
face, arms, and legs. Ambassador Jozsa said he had seen
Toaso personally, and that he had been beaten. Jozsa added
that Hungarian investigations showed Toaso was "far from
being a terrorist." State prosecutor Marcelo Sosa admitted
he was not present during the arrests, even though the
prosecutor's presence is required by Bolivian law. (Note:
Investigators Sosa and Eduard Mollinedo are based out of La
Paz, not Santa Cruz, as would normally be required,
ostensibly because of the case's connections to terrorist
activity. End note.)

- - - -
Comment
- - - -

22. (C) While rumors of government recruitment of the alleged
terrorists cannot be verified, the troop movements,
accusations by MAS-aligned social groups, Garcia Linera's
severe public statements, and the government's almost
conspiratorial use of Facebook pictures and low-quality
cellphone videos do seem to point toward a crackdown in Santa
Cruz similar to the 2008 state of siege in Pando. Without a
functioning judiciary, including the defunct Constitutional
Tribunal, the Morales administration has a relatively free
hand to move forward with large-scale arrests. Such actions
could result in a severe backlash from Crucenos, who are
nervous to the point of paranoia about Morales' motivations.
We may know more within the next 48 hours, when troops will
go to either frontier areas or closer toward Santa Cruz's
capital, Morales will make his May 1st speech, and the
prosecutor's office should release a fuller list of (Cruceno)
suspects. We are also confused by somewhat contradictory
comments regarding the USG by Morales and state-allied news
sources, but note that the government has yet to make any
explicit accusations regarding USG involvement with the
alleged terrorists. End comment.
URS