Cable: Bolivia arrests political opposition on the basis of terrorism-charges

A cable of April 2009 from the US embassy in La Paz stated that the Morales administration could use a 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, as a pretext to initiate arrests of the political opposition. Comment from the embassy:

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.

The embassy was later briefed by the Bolivian government on the ‘terrorist cell’. Comment from the US Embassy:

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.

More on this last claim in another cable, dated 9 February 2010 in which the embassy reports that the Bolivion prosecutor ties the terror case to the CIA.

The Bolivian prosecutor investigating a 2009 alleged domestic terrorism plot claims that the perpetrators’ leader, Eduardo Rozsa, had been in regular contact with a former CIA employee and kept him informed of the group’s activities in Bolivia. The prosecutor’s assertion is the first specific GOB allegation of U.S. involvement in the Rozsa affair, in which the Bolivian government maintains it thwarted an attempt to set up a separatist military force, as well as a conspiracy to assassinate Bolivian President Evo Morales. Although the prosecutor stopped short of accusing the CIA of backing Rozsa’s mercenary group, we can expect that GOB officials will make that claim, regardless of the evidence. End summary.  

 ¶2. (SBU) Marcelo Soza, the prosecutor in charge of investigating the April 2009 Rozsa case, announced February 5 that a review of Rozsa’s computer hard drive had uncovered evidence of email communication between Rozsa and an alleged ex-CIA employee (a U.S. citizen named Belovays). According to Soza, Belovays had been active in the Balkans wars, where he supposedly met Rozsa and became his mentor. An internet search on Belovays suggested that he has since died, Soza reported (Rozsa and two others were killed in a police raid; another two suspects are in custody). Soza claimed that Rozsa’s computer files show that Rozsa was in constant contact with Belovays — who, Soza said, is assumed to have been in Bolivia at some point — and kept him informed of his group’s activities and plans.   

¶3. (SBU) Soza did not provide any details of the alleged exchanges between Rozsa and Belovays, nor characterized Belovays’s role beyond asserting that the alleged former agent had been aware of Rozsa’s conspiracy. The Bolivian press has so far reported the story straight, sticking strictly to Soza’s account but featuring headlines such as, “Soza Says CIA Knew Rozsa’s Plans” and “Rozsa Informed CIA Agent of Work.”   

¶4. (C) Comment: Soza’s initial claims may be limited in scope, but we expect that Bolivian government officials will not feel themselves similarly bound by actual evidence. For nearly a year, the GOB has maintained that Rozsa and his group represented a grave threat and that they were backed by enemies of President Morales (including prominent opposition and Santa Cruz civic leaders, who are increasingly the target of Soza’s investigation). The Bolivian government is almost certain to seize upon this opportunity to link the U.S. “empire” to the alleged conspiracy and substantiate Morales’s wildest claims about American skullduggery.


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