By Ken Gibson
This is part 1 of a series in which former US Navy intel operative Ken Gibson talks about his role in working with Bolivians.
As this goes to press, the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has had to flee the country amid protests after winning a 4th term.
It is the hope of the author that US President Donald Trump and his administration will be able to work with either a new administration in Bolivia or a continuing Morales administration. In the last ten years or more that Morales has been the duly elected head of state, there has been very little good news coverage of Bolivia. Gibson will present many surprising insights in this series.
As I crossed Vauxhall Bridge and walked south to meet my contact, the Bolivian military attache, I was painfully aware that my knowledge of his country was limited. Vaguely I recalled that it was a landlocked nation in the heart of South America, twice the size of Texas, and rich in avifuana and minerals.
Never had I been there, and today would be the first time that I even met anyone from that state.
What time I had spent in Latin America had been either on bird watching tours to Panama and Costa Rica, or as a sailor in the navy going ashore in Cuba. But Bolivia was an unknown. As it is to most Anglo-Saxons.
The Bolivian, a naval captain, made a positive and lasting impression on me. Our conversation started out on a friendly tone, but turned quickly to the business at hand. He was here to get from me certain details of the trips made by a British barrister, Adrian Davies QC, to the southeastern part of his country. Santa Cruz, the largest of the nine departamentos of Bolivia, was the most wealthy, and also the most contentious, having in its borders a contingent of anti-government agitators, some having ties to the nazis who had infested this part of the country after the war. Germans and Croatians mixed with other Europeans in the capital city, also called Santa Cruz.
Capitan Quipildor took notes as I related to him how the QC traveled to Brazil and Paraguay, and from there made his way across the border into Santa Cruz. Davies, on occasion, had made the trek to Bolivia through the Paraguayan Pantanal on a bus, having to push it out of the mud as it got stuck en route. It took six hours. A plane would have cost little more and would have taken one hour. Somehow Davies did not want to be on a flight manifest list. And further, Davies had US special forces troops to meet in Paraguay, which he claimed were there ready to back up a coup in Santa Cruz. Over pints, was happy to inform me that he intended to sneak across the border from Brazil and Paraguay into Bolivia.
My account of Davies’ activities tallied with existing Bolivian intel reports. I agreed to pick the lawyer’s brain for more. As a speaker at the New Right, what some would call a neo nazi forum, founded by Troy Southgate and Jonathan Bowden, I had access to such individuals. Little did they know that I was sharing my information with MI5 and intel agencies from other nations, including Bolivia and the US. And worse, that I gave their secrets to their arch enemy, the Jewish Chronicle.
Often at a New Right meeting the possibility of such a deed was mentioned. One young man from South Africa addressed the attendees with the warning that he sensed we were being infiltrated. Jews, he asserted, could be among us. The JC could be listening to our every word, he implored. Eyes looked right. Eyes looked left. But with my goyisher looks and ability to speak the tongue of the Vaterland, I was passed over.
My eyes are blue. My hair is brown. My blood is Jewish, maternally. Little did they suspect, until a decade later, when I outed their game on Tony Gosling’s radio show.
But what they did not know about me, the Bolivians did. And that might have been the end of any interest I had in that part of the world were it not for phone calls six months later, in the Spring of 2009, from their ambassador in London. An assassination attempt had been discovered in Santa Cruz, resulting in early morning police action at the Hotel de Las Americas. Mike Dwyer, Eduardo Rozsa Flores and Arpad Magyarosi were shot dead, while Mario Tadik Astorga and Elod Toaso were taken into custody.
Dwyer was a young Irishman with nazi tattoos. Flores was a veteran fighter in Croatia, and is believed to have killed two people there. In a video he made in September 2008, which he ordered to be played if he died, he tells Hungarian TV anchorman Andre Kepes that he intended to sneak across the border from Brazil into Bolivia where he felt called to “organize the defence of the city and province of Santa Cruz.”
The others all had ties to Hungarian and/or Croatian political groups, that in turn had ties to Davies. Croatian
politics was a specialty of this barrister, who spoke that language, along with French and Spanish. Thus he was well suited for black ops in Santa Cruz; where Branko Gora Marinkovic Jovicevic, one of the wealthiest men in Bolivia, resided. According to Bolivian officials, it was he who invited Flores to Santa Cruz. Jovicevic’s family left Croatia in the 1950s, allegedly to escape retribution for his family’s role in collaborating with nazis. He is a Croatian citizen, as well as a powerful figure in Santa Cruz.
How the five men got to the Hotel de Las Americas with a cache of weapons and ammunition, including several cylinders of C-4 explosive, and a stash of more explosives and assault rifles in a storage unit in the fairgrounds, would make for an interesting tale, but with three of them cold in earth, it is one we might never hear. Davies might have some information here, but he did not prove so indiscreet as to discuss it after the Bolivians discovered the plot. His movements are certainly interesting, as he was wont to spend time in Virginia, meeting with far right US groups, before heading to South America.
The press did little to cover this outside of Bolivia. Calling some contacts in London, I was told the story would not interest the Western reader and that it was too complicated. It was easier to do stories on Pee Wee Herman and Lindsay Lohan. The best I could do under the circumstances was to post the story on internet sites, under a pseudonym so as to keep my cover. “Spies, Lies and Journalists: 007 and the failed coup in Bolivia” was one of them, posted on David Toube’s site. http://hurryupharry.org/2009/05/20/spies-lies-and-journalists-007-and-a-failed-coup-in-bolivia/
After the shootout in Santa Cruz, I headed to New York, where I got in touch with the Bolivian consulate in July of 2009. I spent time with them helping them to piece this together and give them more information on operatives in their nation. While Davies stayed away from the scene of the crime and kept silence, another individual at the New Right, Jonothon Boulter, proved to be a font of information. I liked helping the Bolivians, as l liked what their president, Evo Morales was doing for his country. He increased literacy and wages, while making it known that he would not allow the plunder of their mineral resources. Which plunder is much the history of Bolivia; touch some silver and there is a 50% chance that is was mined there. Gold, tin, cadmium, chromium, lead, and lithium can also be found there. Of the latter, Bolivia holds up to 75% of the world’s supply, with the Wall Street Journal calling it the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.”
Uranium too could be mined there, but is not. The press discovered that in 2009 by making calls to the Mossad. What had occasioned their calls was an accusation made by Danny Ayalon, Israels’ Deputy Foreign Minister. He asserted that Bolivia was mining and selling uranium to Iran. Not only did Mossad itself dispel that story, but the World Geological Survey set the record straight, telling the hacks that Bolivia had not mined any since the 1970s. As excited as they were to have a hot story on uranium, the lead went cold. They went back to doing stories on Pee Wee Herman and Lindsay Lohan.
Bolivia might have been drawn into an alliance with Israel and the West. Not only were Israel’s enemies Bolivia’s enemies, in that the anti-Morales faction in Santa Cruz had nazi sympathies along with Ustase Croations, but Bolivia had a history of supporting Jews. In WWII, Bolivia and the Dominican Republic were the only Western Hemisphere nations to allow Jewish refugees a haven. Bolivia’s terms were very generous to those fleeing Hitler, allowing in large groups with no means of support. The Nazis put up a fight against this in the press, which was countered with the removal of the German ambassador (check) from Bolivia.
The support might have been more robust but for the words of a Bolivian tin magnate, Mauricio Hofschild , a Jew who was asked to advise on the issue of Jewish immigration. He supported such help to his brethren, but with one stipulation; that only German speaking Jews be allowed in.
This story I shared with those attending the reception at the Bolivian consulate; many of whom were Jews, and not unfamiliar with the tale. Part of it has been told in Leo Spitzer’s book Hotel Bolivia. Further research into this parashot, or episode, of modern Jewish history has also been undertaken by American historian Laura Gotkowitz who had spoken on this at New York University shortly before the reception at the consulate.
Ideally, Jewish Bolivian relations ought to have been excellent. But it was not just Ayalon’s remarks which drove a wedge. The issue of the Jacob Ostreicher added fuel to the fire.
Ostreicher was a Hasidic businessman from Brooklyn who was working in Santa Cruz. He was arrested in 2011 and thrown in jail, with charges of money laundering. With little or no mention of this in the Western press, his case was left to the Orthodox community to sort out. Which they tried to do from Brooklyn, with little idea about the factions and history of Bolivia. Local politicians converged on the Bolivian Mission to the UN and the consulate, both located near Grand Central Station. In the angst, the prevailing mood was very anti-Bolivian, with assumptions made that the entire nation was against Jews, and that Ostreicher was a political prisoner.
He was indeed, but his oppressors were not the Evo Morales supporters, but rather, the anti-Morales crowd in Santa Cruz. As the misunderstandings exacerbated the situation, the Jewish community reached out to anyone who they thought could help. Gary Krupp, head of the Pave The Way Foundation, was enlisted.
Krupp was not the first choice of person for the Jewish community. He was a friend of Pope, who in his youth had some role in the nazi movement. Krupp is one of only two Americans to be called “His Excellency” at the Vatican. The other is Rupert Murdoch. The hope that Krupp would assist was made on the assumption that Bolivia, being a mainly Catholic nation, would
listen to the Pope, who would be briefed by Krupp. Assumptions so often end up wrong, as did this one. Bolivia, though mainly Catholic, was at odds with the papacy over a number of issues. The Pope did not so much as lift a finger to get involved in an affair between Jews and Bolivians. Krupp reached out elsewhere.
The case of the Jew in jail in Bolivia came to my attention from Jonothon Boulter, of all people; he reminded me, as he briefed me on the situation, that I should keep any of my associations with the neo nazi parties a secret as I dealt with this. Boulter, also wont to spend time in the Vatican, had been asked by Krupp to reach out. (mention other email nazi/non mentioned etc)
Keeping secrets was becoming a habit, which I practiced with Krupp when I met him at Boulter’s request. We met on a foggy afternoon on Roosevelt Island, that enclave of New Yorkers who are lost between Manhattan and Queens, in a one street, one horse town. One restaurant, one library, one supermarket. And two Jews, one of whom could not tell the other his true identity or his ties, however, bogus, to neo nazis. I could tell him nothing. I left him in the fog, in the dark, and disappeared into the F train, riding on the wheels of steel under the East River.
Taking the tram back to Manhattan, I knew that the Ostreicher case was not going to be easy. Krupp had done all that he could, and now, in desperation, other players were getting involved, and the more they did, the more a mess it all became.
One of those to throw their hand in was Sean Penn. His involvement generated much press for this actor, but did little for the prisoner. Calls to Penn’s agent were left ignored, and Penn went about this uninformed and annoyed the Bolivian government. Diplomacy was not Penn’s forte.
Also ignored were calls to Ostreicher’s congressman, Jerold Nadler. Helping the Jewish community was not his forte.
It was left for me to try to do the best that I could, and this would mean talking to the Bolivians. My contacts at the consulate in New York had left, and was left to face the Consul, Senora Maria e Osinaga Hernani de Agreda. Meeting her for the first time with this awkward tale was not
an easy task. Few diplomats have the patience to deal with such twisted affairs, and by instinct avoid any involvement.
She, however, listened to the entire story. The Ostreicher case was not unknown to her, and she told me that the wife had been to her and had been advised to get him out on bail, and the Bolivian government in La Paz would let him escape. We both understood the situation in Santa Cruz and how the local politicians there were enemies of Jews, enemies of Evo Morales, and corrupt as could be.
The government in La Paz took an interest in Ostreicher’s case and did two things: it investigated the judges and officials who were had arrested Ostreicher, and it allowed Ostreicher to keep his passport while finally out on bail.
While he got out of jail, several officials involved in the Ostreicher case were put in jail for their part in the case. The La Paz government allowed Ostreicher to quietly slip across the border to Peru. From Peru, he made his way to Los Angeles where Penn made him a guest and took credit.
Boulter’s association with Krupp caused me to look at him in a different light. The person whom I thought was a Jew hater, associating with such, knew a prominent Jew and tried to help another. But he was not without selfish motives; he admitted that he wanted Krupp’s help with business in Latin America.
It was dawning on me that Boulter was more of an international networker, a chameleon slithering from Wales to the Vatican to London to the Middle East, with his paws in pies all over the world. One pie was in the US, where intel agencies could be of sweet use to him.
Boulter latched on to, and form a partnership with, Michael Bagley. The two got close, and Boulter offered to bring me in, forwarding emails from Bagley’s Operations Intelligence server. Bagley had worked for the most powerful woman in the US Senate, Patty Murray, a leading Democrat from Washington state. He also worked for Blackwater, after which he formed his own agency, with a number of Blackwater operatives. He named it Jellyfish.
Bagley, after hearing Boulter vouch for me, met me in New York. He rolled in on the wheels of steel from DC, a demure, nondescript figure that blended in well at the Amtrak waiting room in Penn Station.
We exchanged our bona fides, as I spun a plausible story of working for a black ops intel firm. He accepted that line, which allowed me to talk shop. I kept secrets from Bagley as he revealed secrets to me. I liked it that way. He showed off state department waivers for his work all over the world, and I turned the conversation to Bolivia, where Boulter always had some person or another there, many of whom had some interest in getting rid of Morales. Shadowy figures, one who was called the Prince of Darkness, dreamed of revolution on behalf of the plutocracy. Bagley was sympathetic, but he was not involved there. Jellyfish was booked elsewhere: Syria, Mexico, PR Congo, but not Bolivia. Michael was a busy man, busy enough to turn down a cash offer for work in South America.
I had a gut feeling about Bagley and his activities, and passed my notes to someone with a top secret clearance in Homeland Security. While my offer of dirty work was passed on, another offer made by FBI agents posing as Mexican drug dealers worked. Bagley took their bait and is now awaiting trial on money laundering charges.
And, as I write, Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia, is in Mexico after having fled rioters in his country. Mexico has offered him political asylum.