Bolivian President Rejects Requests for Information on Plot Against Him
April 21, 2009 - New York Times (AP)


LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) -- Bolivian President Evo Morales on Tuesday rejected requests from the governments of Ireland, Croatia and Hungary seeking information about the deaths of three of their citizens whom Bolivia accuses of plotting to assassinate Morales.

Morales said he considered it ''very serious'' that countries with ''no authority'' would interfere in Bolivia's investigation into the incident, which led to the arrest of a Hungarian and a Bolivian-Croatian as well.

''I'm able to process them myself,'' Morales told reporters. ''How are they going to defend such people who came here to try to kill the president?''

Still, Morales said he had no objection to an international commission coming to Bolivia to investigate the matter, as his political opponents have requested. They accuse his leftist government of using the incident to distract Bolivian voters ahead of national elections in December.

The government says that Bolivian police last Thursday foiled a plot to assassinate Morales and his vice president, killing three men in a 30-minute gunfight at a hotel in Bolivia's eastern city of Santa Cruz, a hub of anti-Morales sentiment. Two others were arrested.

But in a previously recorded interview broadcast Tuesday in Hungary, one of the three men who was killed said his purpose for being in Bolivia was to help form a militia to defend the province of Santa Cruz against the national government.

''There is a legal background'' to the mission, Eduardo Rozsa-Flores said in an interview with Hungarian journalist and television anchor Andras Kepes. ''I am not going there to attack La Paz or to help organize an attack on the capital and to drive away the president. ... It is the defense which has to be organized, the resistance.''

The interview was recorded Sept. 8, 2008, but broadcast for the first time Tuesday on state television.

Rozsa-Flores arrived in Bolivia on Oct. 4, Kepes wrote in an e-mail. Kepes said Rozsa-Flores asked for the secret interview not to be used until he returned from Bolivia, or unless he died. Kepes said it could be considered Rozsa-Flores' ''last will and testament.''

Rozsa-Flores was born in Santa Cruz to a Bolivian mother and Hungarian father but had lived mostly in Hungary for years. He went to the Balkans as a journalist, but joined the Croatian forces fighting Serb rebels in the 1991 war which led to the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Known as ''Chico,'' Rozsa-Flores was a minor celebrity in Croatia, which was grateful to have a foreigner fighting for its cause. He was buried Friday in Santa Cruz.

Lead prosecutor Marcelo Sossa told local news media that investigators had so far scoured just 10 percent of the documents they confiscated from the group. Vice President Alvaro Garcia said the group had ties to several unidentified Santa Cruz business people who financed the alleged plot.

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Balazs on Tuesday said there was no credible evidence that the group had plotted an assassination. Based on what he called insufficient information from Bolivia's government, ''the pieces of the mosaic don't fit,'' he said.

There is no solid evidence that the Hungarians ''were truly preparing an assassination plot against the president,'' Balazs said. ''Presumably, this is an event tied to domestic politics in Bolivia and someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time.''

Hungary, Romania, Croatia and Ireland have asked Bolivia's government for more information about the incident, but Balazs said calls for an independent international inquiry into the matter were premature.

The three men killed in the confrontation were Rozsa-Flores, Arpad Magyarosi and Michael Dwyer. Still jailed in Bolivia's capital are Elod Toaso and Mario Tadic Astorga.

Dwyer was from Ireland and the Irish Times reported that he had trained as a bodyguard and worked in the security industry.

Magyarosi was an ethnic Hungarian from Romania who had studied in Hungary.

Hungarian diplomats were in La Paz on Tuesday to provide Toaso, a naturalized Hungarian citizen also born in Romania, with consular assistance, Balazs said.

Tadic Astorga is a Bolivian-Croatian who reportedly also fought in the Balkans.