Was there an Assassination Conspiracy Against Evo Morales?
What really happened, who was behind it, and what it means is subject still at this point to as much speculation as it is fact. I have no information other than what has been reported widely in both the Bolivian and foreign media. Here are a few things we do know.
Raid Ordered by Morales Based on Bolivian Intelligence
The raid Thursday was ordered directly by Morales, based on Bolivian intelligence reports of a conspiracy against him.
"Yesterday I gave instructions to the vice president to move to arrest these mercenaries and this morning I was informed of a half-hour shootout at a hotel in the city of Santa Cruz," Morales said. Two additional people were also arrested. Vice President Garcia Linera also said that the men were carrying guns and grenades and attacked police the police.
Reuters reported the VP also saying that police found documents "about preparations for an assassination, an attempt on the lives of the president and the vice president" and confiscated a large cache of weapons with the men in Santa Cruz.
Bolivian government officials have also said that the “terrorist cell” had plans to blow-up a naval boat with Morales aboard recently on Lake Titicaca, had been behind the dynamite attack last week at the Santa Cruz home of Bolivia’s Catholic Cardinal, and also had plans to kill, among others, Santa Cruz Governor Ruben Costas, a fierce Morales critic.
The Dead Accused “Terrorists” Included Foreign Citizens
The nationalities of the three men killed remain unsettled in most news reports. Los Tiempos and others have identified them as Michael Martin Dwyer of Ireland, Magyarosi Arpad of Hungary, and a Bolivian, Eduardo Rozsa Flores. Rozsa Flores, a self-identified Muslim had a Blog here that included links to a variety of sites, ranging from pro-Palestinian groups, to Santa Cruz opponents of Morales, the IMDB movie database.
A number of press reports have identified the three men as “foreign mercenaries” who also were involved in the war in the Balkans. But it is unclear what those reports are based on at this point.
Morales Opponents Dismiss Possible Conspiracy
Morales opponents were quick to dismiss charges of any conspiracy against the President. Santa Cruz Governor Ruben Costas, who had been named by Bolivian officials as one of the potential targets of the conspiracy, quickly denied the government’s claims. He called the raid where the three men were killed, a “cheaply staged” show.
The President of the Santa Cruz delegation to the national Congress, Oscar Urenda, suggested that the episode was deliberately timed to coincide with Morales’ attendance at the summit of American Presidents in Trinidad, at which U.S. President Barack Obama was also in attendance.
None of the opposition leaders who questioned the conspiracy offered any specific evidence to back-up their suspicions.
What seems certain at this point is that a group of men with a large supply of weapons was operating with a clear violent intent, and there are certainly pockets of hatred against Morales deep enough to wish him dead. There is however no clear evidence, at this point and to my knowledge, that the established political organizations opposed to Morales, in Santa Cruz in particular, have any direct connection to these events.
The fact is at this point, that we don’t yet know what all the facts are. In the days that come there will be a myriad of rumors and charges from all sides. Some will be true and some will be false. We will do out best here to wade through all of them and report what we think is solid enough to report. In the meantime we would encourage our readers to rely on the reporting of solid news organizations and analysts, including those with better access that we have to original sources such as the police and others making the official investigations.