Michael Dwyer’s death was used to further many agendas, writes Michael Clifford.
The killing of Michael Dwyer in 2009 was used by many vested interests to further their agendas.
In Bolivia, where Dwyer and two others were shot dead in the early hours of Apr 16, the government used the killings to up the ante against its political opponents.
In the weeks after the killings, dozens of opponents of socialist president Eva Morales were arrested, and many of them imprisoned. They were largely associated with a movement based around the city of Santa Cruz, which wants to secede from Bolivia over Morales’s policies on natural resources in the area.
Back in Ireland, those who oppose the Shell development in Co Mayo only saw the killing of the 24-year-old Co Tipperary native as further proof of the forces of evil that congregated on Shell’s side.
Dywer, from Ballinaderry, worked as a security guard at the site and was recruited to travel to Bolivia by a colleague some months before his killing. One of the two men killed in the same hotel room, Eduardo Rózsa-Flores, was a noted fascist.
For Dywer’s family, the killing began a long quest for justice to find out what had happened to a son who never appeared to have a political bone in his body.
All of these angles are covered in the film made by Richie O’Donnell, Bolivian Escapade, which is to be broadcast tonight on Al Jazeera.
O’Donnell’s last piece of work, The Pipe, followed the lives of the people opposed to Shell over a two-year period in his native Co Mayo. The film won a clutch of awards and was sold to 25 broadcasters around the world. RTÉ wasn’t interested in that film, and also showed little interest in Bolivian Escapade.
What distinguished The Pipe was that it was very short on politics and commentary. This approach to telling a story in a neutral manner is also a feature of Bolivian Escapade, in which the facts are assembled and told by negotiating between all the various vested interests here, Romania, Hungary, and in the South American country.
What emerges is a picture of a young Irishman who, in the best traditions of the wandering impulse of the national psyche, went in search of a little adventure.
It was in filming The Pipe that O’Donnell realised he had captured footage of both Dwyer and his colleague, Tibor Revesz.
The latter man was an ethnic Hungarian with links to a separatist group, the Szeckler Legion, a far right separatist group which was concerned with the cessation of an ethnically Hungarian area of Romania.
Revesz conducted training courses, sometimes using the logo of the security firm both men worked for, IRMS. The company claims it had no knowledge or connection with Revesz’s courses.
In any event, Revesz was recruiting for a linked group run by an associate of Eduardo Rozsa-Flores, a fascist who had fought in the Bosnian war and had since returned to his native Bolivia with dreams of fomenting conflict in Santa Cruz against the government.
Dwyer flew with Revesz to Santa Cruz on Nov 22, 2008, with his head full of dreams of adventure. Things didn’t work out. The training course turned out to be little more than a long party and much horseplay with weapons.
If Dywer had been under the impression he was going to receive intensive training, that must have disappeared within weeks, but he simply went with the flow.
His colleague from IRMS in Mayo, Revesz, eventually went back to Ireland, having fallen out with Rozsa, a move that probably saved his life.
He returned to work in Mayo but soon after Dywer was killed he departed again, and has effectively gone to ground.
The group around Rozsa dwindled in the first months of 2009, and after a spell living rough, the group booked into a hotel in Santa Cruz. A few days after their arrival, the security forces burst in and shot them dead.
O’Donnell’s film picks apart the government’s claim that the men died after a gun battle.
According to Dwyer’s mother, Caroline: “Michael was in bed in his underwear, asleep. The police burst in the door with a precise shot to his heart which killed him and while he was dead on the ground they shot him four more times in the back.”
The film also interviews the hotel manager who disputes an official claim that Rozsa’s car was used in a bomb attack on a cardinal’s home the previous evening.
Rozsa and another man were also killed in the hotel room. Their final two associates were arrested, and are currently stuck in a legal process in which their trial has been halted because the prosecutor is accused of extortion.
Meanwhile, Christof Heyns, the UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, has repeatedly written to the Bolivian government looking forexplanations. In the latest missive, the rapporteur laid out again the pathological evidence of the shootings: “Without implying, in advance, any conclusions on the information received, I wish to reiterate my concern expressed in the previous communication sent on 19 Aug 2011 for the attention of the Government of Your Excellency, concerning allegations that the gunshot wounds observed in the body of Mr Dwyer indicate that several shots were fired while the deceased was already disabled.”
For the Dwyer family, the questions about their son and sibling are still unanswered.
“Our lives have been on hold for last four years,” said Caroline.
“We all grieve differently. It has changed our lives. It has become a big focus for us, trying to get justice for Michael.”
Expecting the unexpected is par for the course for the members of ITSA Theatre Company, which is staging its annual Improvised Panto at the Half Moon Theatre in Cork from Dec 6-21. Now in its third year, this fun event is, to some extent, guided by the over-16s audience.