Daniel McLaughlin in Budapest profiles the Bolivian-born but much-travelled Eduardo Rózsa Flores, claimed by authorities to be the plot leader
EDUARDO RÓZSA Flores came to the end of an extraordinary and often bizarre journey in a Bolivian hotel room.
According to his blog, he was born in Bolivia in 1960 to a leftist Hungarian painter father and a Spanish teacher mother, who moved to Chile and then fled to Sweden after right-wing dictator Augusto Pinochet ousted socialist leader Salvador Allende from power in Santiago in a 1973 coup.
Two years later the family arrived in Hungary, where Flores went on to become the last leader of his university’s communist youth group before the Soviet bloc collapsed in 1989.
For his compulsory national service, Flores served as a border guard at Budapest airport and, according to friends and Hungarian media, acted as a translator for international terrorist Carlos the Jackal when he used Budapest as a base from around 1983 to 1985.
Former acquaintances in Budapest say Flores found work as a journalist and correspondent’s assistant for the BBC’s Spanish-language service and Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia , which took him to former Yugoslavia as it descended into war in the early 1990s.
At this point, Flores abandoned journalism and joined the fighting, helping to establish a foreign volunteers brigade based around the northern Croatian town of Osijek, and fought for Croatia’s independence from Belgrade’s rule.
“The Serbs detained Eduardo for three or four days, beat him up and accused him of being a spy. He was livid and told a Croatian journalist soon afterwards that he wanted to fight,” a close friend of Flores in Budapest told The Irish Times on condition of anonymity.
Flores claimed to have been wounded several times in Croatia, and to have been promoted to the rank of colonel and given Croatian citizenship by then-president Franjo Tudjman.
But the Balkan wars also cast a dark shadow on Flores’ reputation, and caused several old Budapest acquaintances to shun him, particularly as rumours swirled that he may have ordered the killing of a Swiss and a British journalist who went to Croatia to investigate his volunteers brigade.
After the war ended in 1995, Flores returned to Hungary and wrote poetry (www.poetasdelmundo.com/verInfo_europa.asp?ID=1067) but was seen less frequently in Budapest. On his page on YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/eduflores), he said he was living in the country village of Szurdokpuspoki and described himself as an “international war correspondent-turned-platoon-leader” and said he was working as a journalist and actor.
Flores did play himself in a film that was based on his adventures, called Chico , and many of the tributes in Croatian and Hungarian posted on his YouTube pages and his own blog (http://eduardorozsaflores.blogspot.com) refer to him by that nickname.
In recent years, Flores converted to Islam and continued to support a bewildering array of causes, including independence for the Santa Cruz region of Bolivia where he was killed, opposing the US war in Iraq and calling for a Palestinian state.
“He was an idealist who would attach himself to underdog causes and identified himself with oppressed people. He could speak at a communist rally in the morning and a far-right one in the afternoon, and not see any contradiction,” said his old friend in Budapest.
Zoltan Brady, editor of the Kapu magazine that Flores wrote for, said he had gone to Bolivia last spring “to fight against its communist government” and for the independence of the province of Santa Cruz.
“Eduardo was a guerrilla fighter and was living in the Bolivian jungle for some time, having guerrilla activities everyday with thousands of his fellow fighters. But it is not true that he wanted to assassinate the president or anyone else. He was a solder and a guerrilla,” said Brady, who claims to have last talked to Flores just two days before his death.
His friend in Budapest also found it impossible to believe that he was plotting to kill Evo Morales.
“I think he probably met this group of people, including the Irishman, and bragged about what he had done and where he had been. And with his profile and perhaps some weapons with him, he was seen as the perfect guy to set up. He was not a spotless guy, that’s for sure, but he was not a terrorist either.”
Tracing War Crimes
By Radoje Arsenic, “Politika”, Belgrade, January 4, 1996
Eduardo Flores arrived in Croatia in 1991 as a correspondent of a Spanish weekly. Soon, he joined the infamous Croat paramilitary unit Zenga and became the commander of the “International Brigade”. Now, “Reporters without Frontiers” accuse him of killing two foreign correspondents in Croatia, Swiss Christian Wurtemberg and British photographer Paul Janks.
Eduardo Rozsa Flores, a journalist of Spanish-Hungarian extraction and a citizen of Hungary and Croatia, recently requested accreditation in the U.N. headquarters in Zagreb but was refused. A civilian UN official said that he had been vetted and that it was established that the said journalist was suspected of having committed war crimes and two murders, and “persons suspected of having committed murders are not given press accreditation”.
After a long investigation, the international journalists’ association, “Reporters without Frontiers”, prepared a comprehensive material and forwarded it to the United Nations Security Council which the expert group in Geneva published within its resolution 780. The essence of the said material is that Flores, the correspondent of the Catalonian weekly “La Vanguardia” of Barcelona and the commander of the “International Brigade” within the Croat Zenga’s which operated in Eastern Slavonia [under the leadership of self-declared Ustasha and indicted war criminal Branimir Glavas] at the end of 1991 and in 1992, is directly responsible for the death of two foreign journalists, Swiss Christian Wurtemberg and British photographer Paul Janks, who worked for the German EPA news agency.
Croat Officials Pinned Flores’ Murders on Serbs
According to the findings of the “Reporters without Frontiers”, the Swiss journalist was brutally murdered in the region of Osijek on 12 January 1992. The autopsy carried out in the Osijek hospital showed that the death had been caused by a rifle bullet and subsequent strangulation with hands and a rope. However, the statement issued by Croat officials said that Wurtemberg, who was in the brigade for about two months, “had been ambushed and killed by the Chetniks while on patrol”.
But the facts are quite different and show that Wurtemberg joined the “International Brigade” in mid-November 1991 using a false identity and hiding his face behind a mask. As established by the “Reporters without Frontiers”, he was trying to investigate and disclose the facts about the war crimes of the “International Brigade” and its connections with ultra-rightist organizations in West European countries whence most of its members were recruited. He was also investigating the routes of trade in arms and narcotics.
During the last week of 1991, Spanish journalist Julio Cesar Alonso came to the headquarters of the “International Brigade” where he ran into his old friend Wurtemberg. Wurtemberg confided in him that he had left the Brigade a few days before and that he intended to return to Switzerland. Several days later, Alonso met with two members of the Brigade — one of them was its commander Flores (rewarded for his merits with Croatian citizenship), in the Zagreb “International” hotel. According to his subsequent testimony, Flores said he had uncovered that a Swiss was “a mole” in the Brigade.
Since Alonso knew that the only Swiss in the Brigade was his friend Wurtemberg, he hurried to Osijek to warn him. In the Brigade headquarters he met Flores again who told him with a smile: “By the way, we solved the problem of Christian. There is no more the problem of the Swiss.”
Although Croat officials claimed Wurtemberg had been “ambushed and killed by the Chetniks”, it is interesting that his laptop disappeared, while his diary was saved and given to his parents, but without several pages which were torn out.
Immediately after the murder of the Swiss correspondent, British photographer Paul Janks came to Osijek after he was informed about Wurtemberg’s death by his colleague who had expressed doubt in the official version Croats issued about Wurtemberg’s death. Janks began to ask questions about the death of his Swiss colleague and four days later (17 January 1992) was killed himself. Again, Croat official version was that he had been “killed by a Serb sniper”, with an accurate shot between the eyes from about 900 metres in the vicinity of the village of Brijest at the outskirts of Osijek.
Image from Flores’ blog; allegedly, Flores converted to Islam after participating in the Yugoslav civil war on the side of Croat paramilitaries
However, according to the “Reporters without Frontiers” and their findings submitted to the UN Security Council, it was determined as a fact that, at the time of the murder, a strong wind with sleet was blowing, so that such an accurate shot from the said range, as stated in the police investigation, was impossible.
In May of the same year, two photo reporters, Carl Finch and Richie Bell, met Paolo Bandini in Zagreb who had previously left the “International Brigade” and who told them that he had killed Chris Wurtemberg. Moreover, he claimed that he had done it “upon the orders of commander Flores”, as he called him. These two journalists publicly reiterated this accusation in September 1992 in “The Observer Magazine” of Liverpool.
Flores left the Croatian army in July 1992, having been commander of the sabotage and reconnaissance squad for 11 months and then the commander of the “International Brigade” of the Croat paramilitary troops, after which Tudjman promoted him in the rank of a major of the Croatian army, whereafter he was granted Croatian citizenship. Nothing was heard of him for almost three years (allegedly he frequently traveled between Chicago, Budapest and Osijek). Beginning last year, he joined the Community of Croatian Hungarians headquartered in Osijek and, according to his own statements, he is a good friend with Croat fascists, Ustashe Tomislav Mercep, Branimir Glavas and Vladimir Seks.
It is rumoured that former commander Flores now even writes poetry, but the “Reporters without Frontiers” hope that this new image of his will not hinder the expert commission to put the murders of the two journalists on its list of war crimes and to bring those who ordered their commission and those who committed them to justice in The Hague.
An exclusive interview he made with the Hungarian Journalist Kepes Andras, before leaving for Bolivia (in Hungarian)