Bizarre details emerge in Bolivian plot

Terrorists tried to blow up Bolivia’s President Evo Morales on a naval boat on Lake Titicaca. Mercenaries, including a veteran of the Balkan wars, were plotting against Morales and his political opponents at the same time. A Roman Catholic cardinal was among their targets. Reuters correspondent Eduardo Garcia reports that these are just some of the bizarre allegations made by the Bolivian government after police killed three men in a shootout at a hotel. The government said the police foiled a plot to assassinate the leftist president.

The strange tale began on Thursday when Bolivian police killed three alleged terrorists or mercenaries and arrested two others in the eastern city of Santa Cruz. Morales said he ordered the men detained because they were plotting to kill him. When police stormed the hotel, a gunfight broke out and three suspected were killed.

Where the dead men came from is still a mystery. Government officials said they traveled from either Ireland or Croatia to kill Morales and trigger a spiral of violence in the poor South American country. Morales said two of the men killed were Hungarian. But local media cite police sources saying one of them was from Ireland and one from Romania.

The third man killed was identified as Bolivian Eduardo Rozsa Flores, who the government says fought in separatist movements in the former Yugoslavia. In his blog, Rozsa describes himself as Muslim and in one entry he calls Morales’ hero, Argentine revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara a racist and mass murderer. He also had this site.

Marton Dunai of Reuters in Hungary reports that Zoltan Brady, editor of the left-wing magazine Kapu, where Rozsa worked as a correspondent, said Rozsa had gone to Bolivia to fight with the separatist movement and against communism. Political opponents to Morales, a socialist, have demanded that the eastern part of the country have more autonomy from the central government.

Vice President Alvaro Garcia said the hotel gunfight lasted 30 minutes and that the three “highly dangerous terrorists” had guns, explosives and grenades. Yet the police emerged unscathed from the battle.

Two survivng men, identified as Hungarian and Bolivian, are under arrest.

Authorities also said they found evidence that the alleged mercenaries tried to put explosives on a navy boat when Morales and his cabinet traveled on Lake Titicaca, on the Peru-Bolivia border, a couple weeks ago.

Police also reported finding a stash of weapons including sniper rifles, high-caliber guns, dynamite and powerful explosives in Santa Cruz on the grounds of a trade fair organized by farmers and businessmen who are among Morales’ strongest opponents. No wonder some opposition politicians scoffed that the whole thing was staged. However, one of Morales’ arch enemies, politically speaking, Santa Cruz Gov. Ruben Costas also was among the targets of the alleged terrorists, the government said.

And, to top it off, police said the alleged terrorists used some explosives from their stash to attack the house of Cardinal Julio Terrazas earlier this week. There’s lots of friction between between Morales and church leaders.

Morales frequently accuses his political rivals and U.S. spies of trying to kill him but has never provided substantial evidence. This is the first time security forces have backed up the accusations by killing suspects.

[Source: By Fiona Ortiz, Reuters, La Paz, 17Apr09]

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