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Viewing cable 09LAPAZ600, GOB BRIEFS DIPLOMATIC CORPS ON "TERRORIST CELL"

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09LAPAZ600 2009-04-23 11:11 2010-12-29 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy La Paz
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #0600/01 1131106
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231106Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0600
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 8955
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 6335
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0309
RUEHBM/AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST 0039
RUEHUP/AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST 0033
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 7518
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 4565
RUEHCP/AMEMBASSY COPENHAGEN 0468
RUEHDL/AMEMBASSY DUBLIN 0021
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 4900
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO 6249
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 7183
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO 1947
RUEHVB/AMEMBASSY ZAGREB 0014
RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA 1760
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 000600

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/22/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM PHUM PINR ENVR ASEC BL PTER
SUBJECT: GOB BRIEFS DIPLOMATIC CORPS ON "TERRORIST CELL"

REF: A. LA PAZ 593
B. LA PAZ 290
C. 08 LA PAZ 2483
D. 08 LA PAZ 2374

Classified By: Charge Kris Urs for reasons 1.4 (b, d)

1. (C) Summary: Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera
and other senior administration members, during an address to
the diplomatic corps on April 21, underscored the seriousness
of what they labeled a series of three terrorist attacks and
the presence of a terrorist cell with at least ten members.
On April 16, Bolivian police forces killed three alleged
terrorists in a downtown Santa Cruz hotel (reftel A). In an
interview released posthumously, the group's leader advocated
the secession of Santa Cruz department, Bolivia's largest and
most prosperous state, but explicitly denied having any plans
to attack La Paz or overthrow the government. Nevertheless,
Garcia Linera repeatedly pledged to carry the investigation
to its "final conclusions," raising fears of possible arrests
of members of the Santa Cruz-based political opposition.
President Evo Morales rejected requests by the Hungarian,
Irish, and Croatian governments to investigate the three
deaths, saying they had no right to demand explanations.
Charge reassured Garcia Linera that there was no USG
involvement as per President Obama's recent public statement;
the Vice President responded that the GOB knows that the USG
is with them. Striking his chest for emphasis, Garcia Linera
said "President Obama's words brought us here." End summary.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation to Diplomatic Corps
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

2. (C) Following the deaths of three and arrest of two
alleged terrorists April 16 in Santa Cruz by the Bolivian
SWAT team (reftel A), the Bolivian government has released
preliminary results of its ongoing investigation into what it
claims is a cell of at least ten terrorists. The government
said the group is also responsible for recent attacks on the
homes of Deputy Autonomy Minister Saul Avalos and Cardinal
Julio Terrazas. In a packed meeting of the diplomatic corps
April 21 in the Presidential Palace's Hall of Mirrors, Vice
President Alvaro Garcia Linera, Government Minister Alfredo
Rada, and Presidency Minister Juan Ramon Quintana justified
the killing of the three alleged terrorists and reviewed what
they emphasized was just "ten percent" of the information
they had captured regarding the group's aims and activities.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
VP: "Terrorists" and "Assassins"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) Garcia Linera noted that after the explosion at
Cardinal Terraza's house, the government intensified its
focus on the suspected terrorist cell, leading ultimately to
the April 16 shootout at the Santa Cruz hotel. He said
during the raid the five men attacked the police with gunfire
and explosives. The vice president emphasized that the men
were neither tourists nor random fanatics, but rather part of
a structured terrorist cell that was well-funded and trained
to achieve their ultimate goal of secession for Santa Cruz
and the assassination of Morales, Garcia Linera, and "three
ministers."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Investigation Not a Witch Hunt, Really
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

4. (C) Garcia Linera told the group of diplomats that La Paz
Prosecutor Marcelo Sosa was the case's main investigator and
said the government would abide by the results of the
investigation, including any established links to Santa Cruz
businessmen and/or political opposition members. Garcia
Linera said the effort would be impartial and would not be a
witch hunt. However, he pledged to take the results of the
investigation to their "final conclusion." (Note: Garcia
Linera used similarly firm language after the September 2008
violence in Pando (reftel B-D), after which the government
illegally jailed Prefect Leopoldo Fernandez and violently
detained over forty more, many of them prominent political
opposition members. End note.)

- - - - - - - - - -
Rada: Cell Structure
- - - - - - - - - -

5. (C) Government Minister Rada discussed the alleged
structure of the cell, including the five members found in
Bolivia. He said Hungarian-Bolivian Eduardo Rozsa Flores was
the leader of the group, that he had obtained the rank of
colonel in the Croatian army, and was believed to be
responsible for the murder of a journalist in Croatia. Rada
described Irishman Michael Martin Dwyer as second-in-command,
saying he had military and security experience. Rada said
Romanian-born Hungarian Arpad Magyarosi was used as a
sharpshooter/sniper. Rada referred to the two captured men,
Mario Tadic Astorga (a Croatian-Bolivian) and Elod Toaso (a
Hungarian), as a member of the Croat army responsible for the
Terrazas attack and as the main computer specialist,
respectively. Rada said that in addition to the five
captured or killed, information seized by the police
indicated there were others involved.

6. (C) Rada reported that after the gun battle, the police
found pistols, dynamite, C4 explosives, and ammunition
corresponding to 5.56mm weapons. Noting that the weapons
cache found at the Cotas stand in the ExpoCruz fairgrounds
did not include any weapons of this type, he said there were
likely other weapons caches in the ExpoCruz area. (Note: The
Embassy participates in the ExpoCruz fair only through its
association with the American Chamber of Commerce, and does
not have its own stand or storage area. End note.) Rada
said the materiel seized corresponded to the explosive
devices left at both Avalos' and Cardinal Terrazas' homes,
which included dynamite, C4, nails, and other metal pieces.
He then indicated the government had information showing the
group's next attacks included the president, vice president,
and three ministers (whom Rada left unnamed).

- - - - - - - - - - -
VP: We Want Your Help
- - - - - - - - - - -

7. (C) Garcia Linera spoke again, saying there was much more
information to be reviewed. He said the group had maps of
Bolivian military bases they apparently planned to attack,
that they were recruiting other members, and that they had
"specialized arms" even the Bolivian government did not
possess. The vice president said they found many photos,
some including Bolivians from Santa Cruz and Beni, and that
they were in the process of identifying these people. He
insisted the photos were not "montages" or
otherwise-assembled works by the government, and that the
photos also indicated there had been plans for an attack
around the January 25 constitutional referendum which did not
come to pass. He specifically referred to a photo of Rozsa
with Cruceno autonomy activist Mauricio Iturri and averred
that he was trained by Rozsa. Garcia Linera ended with a
simple plea to the assembled group, saying "we want your
help."

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Quintana: Troop Movements
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

8. (C) Presidency Minister Quintana then took the floor
briefly to note that, in his opinion, the attacks occurred
because the political opposition created a context in which
they were possible and because the government's authority in
the area was not strong enough. He identified six border
provinces within Santa Cruz department where the government
would deploy troops to strengthen control.

- - - - - - - -
Questions Remain
- - - - - - - -

9. (C) Despite the GOB's coordinated presentation that
maintained the group's intentions to assassinate the
president, in an interview with Hungarian television
(released posthumously and characterized as his "final
testimony"), Rozsa explicitly stated he did not seek to
attack the central government in La Paz or to assassinate
Morales or other administration officials. In a conversation
with Charge after the administration's presentation, the
German DCM remarked that it seemed there was "not enough" to
justify the government's claims of a well-funded terrorist
network, given that the supposed terrorists were easily
captured and did not appear to be well trained.

- - - - - - - - - - -
Charge Press Statement
- - - - - - - - - - -

10. (U) After the presentation, Charge met briefly with the
press, saying that "if asked" the USG would be pleased to
study potential assistance we could give to the
investigation. The Cubans offered assistance as well.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Morales Gets Mad at Europe
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

11. (U) In a press conference later on April 21, President
Morales bristled at requests by the governments of Hungary,
Ireland, and Croatia for more information about the deaths of
their citizens. Morales said the three countries "have no
authority to ask me for an explanation... I am tempted to
sue them, that is what I want to do, but I am not a lawyer.
How can they defend people who came here to attack the
president? That is very grave. I could think that they (the
governments) were the ones who sent them in to attack me, to
attack democracy." Irish Foreign Minister Michael Martin
said Morales was being unreasonable and mentioned evidence
suggesting the three men died in an "ambush" and not in a
prolonged gun battle. Similarly, Hungarian Foreign Minister
Peter Balazs said he doubted Rozsa and the others were
plotting assassinations. "We can assume they were the
victims of domestic Bolivian politics," he said.

- - - -
Comment
- - - -

12. (C) While the existence of a paramilitary group
dedicated to the defense and potential secession of Santa
Cruz seems clear, the other goals attributed to the group by
the Bolivian government are more difficult to verify.
Observers fear the government may leverage the group's
presence to go after the political opposition in Santa Cruz,
similar to their round-up of Pando political opposition.
Just as in Pando, the government has claimed sole prosecution
authority falls in the hands of police and investigators from
La Paz. Post notes that ex-Pando Prefect (and Morales rival)
Fernandez has now been in prison for seven months under
dubious legal pretext and without a trial. We are also wary,
given the president's penchant for accusing the Embassy of
supporting the opposition (and despite the vice president's
chest-pounding affirmation to Charge), of a potential GOB
accusation that the Embassy or the USG generally supported
Rozsa's "terrorist" attacks. End comment.
URS