In the early morning of July 23, 2009, I was forced to leave the church building where I was living. It was a few minutes before 7 AM. The noise was unbearable. In an archetypal form of torture, I was being denied sleep. I had spent the two previous nights trying to avoid the noise. I moved from the room on the roof to the toilets in the basement. It didn’t help. The neighbors on the other side of the toilet wall were collaborators and aimed sound devices at me. I tried night walks, but the neighborhood was dangerous. After a few close encounters of the third kind with drunken Bolivian zombies, I gave up.
That morning, I left the building and headed downwards, towards La Paz downtown. I chose to move through the Apumalla River. As with most rivers crossing the city, it is covered up; this one passes near the church and is not paved. It provides a quick access by foot to downtown while being inaccessible to cars. Several roads cross it and twice on my way down suspicious 4×4 trucks crossed my path. They advanced too slowly, as if in a reconnaissance mission, and were out of place. Normally at that hour, I never met even one. I advanced faster, and finally reached the Santa Cruz and Illampu corner a few minutes later. This was the site of “El Lobo,” an Israeli restaurant, which apparently doubles as a Mossad substation. Invigorated by the exercise, I moved downwards through Santa Cruz Street. This was the fastest way of reaching downtown. In despair, I wanted to create distance between me, El Lobo, and the dubious trucks.
Somewhat further down that street, four Israeli men were waiting. Probably following their expectations, I moved away from them as fast as possible, entering the Linares alley. This was the center of the backpackers’ area. It featured many souvenir stores, travel agencies and cheap guesthouses half hidden in a maze of narrow alleys. Fearing they would get me, I turned left and began descending a steep and unnamed pathway leading to Murillo Street and to what I hoped would be safety. Halfway down, I heard some muffled steps behind me. I turned around just when a small, stocky Bolivian man reached me, bypassed me, and stopped about a yard ahead of me, blocking my escape route. “Roy,” he said. That was impossible; I use a Spanish name with Bolivians. Sensing what was happening, I turned backward just in time to see one of the Israelis that I had seen instants before on the Santa Cruz Street. Another man who was out of sight, jumped on me from behind; his arm wrapped my throat. He had a solid piece of metal on the inner part of his elbow; he pressed it on the lower part of my neck. He pulled backwards, and I fell. Another criminal picked up my feet. Pushing them away from me, he increased the pressure on my neck. I heard the latter making a funny noise, and I lost consciousness.
I was awake. Nobody was near me. My backpack and all my documents had been taken away. I stood up. Nothing seemed broken, though my neck felt strange. I headed down to Murillo Street. Unsurprisingly, there were two policemen waiting there. Crime in Bolivia pays dividends to the police; seldom is a crime committed without the police knowing or even abetting it. This was not a secret; it regularly appeared all over the Bolivian media. I approached them and shouted “I’ve been attacked.” Despite their standing next to me, the policemen barely heard the faint whisper that came out of my wrecked throat. I repeated “I’ve been attacked,” and pointed at the alley.
The two policemen began running into the alley. I wasn’t sure if they wanted to see the crime scene or if they were running away from me. I followed them. We stopped at the attack spot. I explained to them what happened. They charged upwards; I followed them. We reached the Linares Alley. It was deserted. From there, we walked to Santa Cruz Street and took a look. One of the policemen began speaking with me, while the second one entered the Jimenez Alley. Seconds later, the second came out holding in his hand one of my obsolete Bolivian ID documents; it was the only item that had survived the attack. Why would the attackers waste time in picking up this item among all my belongings? More odd things happened. The first policeman stopped a young man walking down the street. They knew each other; the policeman asked him if he saw anything. The man denied seeing anything, and was released. Then the policemen told me “Go to the PTJ,” and they were all gone.
PTJ is the acronym for “Policia Tecnica Juridica,” the part of the Bolivian police dealing with crime. Downtown La Paz is small; most official institutions are close to each other. I headed towards the national headquarters; they provide services on a 24/7 basis. Minutes later I was there and approached the counter where charges could be placed, I knew it since I had visited it after an earlier attack. It was empty. I stood there until a police officer appeared. “It’s closed, come back at 9 AM,” he told me. It was impossible. I pointed to a couple being attended to inside. “It’s closed, come back at 9 AM,” he repeated, unambiguously displeased with my observation.
There was nothing I could do. Back on the street I went to the nearby UTOP’s headquarter. “We deal only with riots, go to the Forensic Center.” The Forensic Center was closed. A police on a nearby street told me to go to the Transit Police Headquarters. “We don’t deal with that; you’ll find a tourist police officer at the San Francisco Church,” I was told at the transit. Eventually this policeman went with me to the nearby church. There were no signs of policemen there; it was too close to the crime scene and that may explain their absence. I went to the refugees’ office, which is near the transit police building. I entered and waited by the door. They weren’t expected to appear before 8:30 AM. Several items had been taken from my pockets; my clothes were in an appalling shape. My shirt was torn, and my throat was throbbing.
Disapproving of my untidy appearance, the policeman guarding the building—he knew me well—told me not to wait inside and took me out of the building.
I stood next to the building until one of the personnel arrived. The refugees’ lawyer was summoned immediately. “The Tourist Police is open round the clock, let’s go there,” he told me. Minutes later I laid the first formal charge. The police officer there kept changing times and places. I had to correct her several times. She was trying to invalidate the charges. Afterwards, we went to the PTJ, which by then was open. I made a second charge there. The PTJ officer kept changing the hours and places I mentioned. “Can you recognize the face of the Bolivian accomplice?” he asked. “Yes,” I said; the lawyer had told me that I’ll be shown an album of criminals’ pictures. However, as soon as I confidently said: “yes,” the officer cut short our meeting. Nobody wanted me to recognize the criminal.
From there I reached the Forensic Center and coordinated a visit for the early afternoon; the physician also told me there was no problem in approaching the emergency room before the forensic test. Soon afterwards I was at the emergency room of a Catholic hospital which cooperates with the refugees’ office. I had no intention of letting them perform intrusive tests or to let them inject me with drugs. Local hospitals are famous for causing infections that demand additional treatments (and create bonus incomes for the hospital). A physician examined my throat. He wanted to give me cortisone to avoid the inflammation. I refused. They refused to let me go. “You’ll suffocate to death otherwise,” a nurse told me. They brought a new syringe and showed me the cortisone ampoule. Eventually, after some thirty minutes, I began experiencing difficulties in my breathing and agreed to the injection.
In the early afternoon, I returned for the forensic examination. While waiting in the large inner yard of the building, Raul Gonzales appeared. He was the Bolivian intelligence officer described in The Cross of Bethlehem. In March 2007, he had admitted “Israel asked us to keep an eye on you.” His son is one of the Bolivians working in a joint false-missionaries program with the CIA; Bolivian missionaries can enter where Americans cannot. I ignored him. Then, the physician told me my throat had been badly crushed. Later that year permanent damage to my throat was diagnosed; its deterioration is slow and steady. Nobody hearing the story doubted that the Israelis and the local police had carried out a joint crime; apparently the Bolivian intelligence had also enjoyed a profitable role. Thirty coins of tin for a Bolivian Judas.
It was Thursday. In the early evening, there was a service at the church. I appeared with my torn shirt. “I want to speak,” I said to Wilson, the congregation’s president. “No,” he said. By then, the cortisone began doing its job. I could speak, though with pain. The pastor walked to the pulpit and began praying; everybody knew what had happened.
“Oh Lord, why did You abandon us?” began the pastor.
I didn’t let him finish. I walked toward the pulpit and stood next to him. Eventually he cut short his prayer. Humiliated, he left the pulpit. He was one of those that sold me. “Thank you Lord for having let me pass another test,” I began. The sentence left the pastor with no air; he collapsed into his chair. He had been shown his attitude was not Christian. He now understood his error.
“I have failed here; years I teach and preach the same message, and yet you do not comprehend that informing on a brother is a sin,” I continued.
People cried. Yet, they had sold me and were not repentant. In November, I left the church. Much later, I met one of the congregation members. He told me two members had left the congregation after this. One of them, Sergio, was the husband of Wilson’s half-sister. He knew I had been sold, and, as an answer, took his entire family out of the devil’s nest. Not everybody was guilty; not all of them were collaborators. Almost two millennia before that, Apostle Paul had warned us in Galatians 2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus that they might bring us into bondage.
Bolivia had accepted me as a refugee and then had sold me out to my persecutors. What does that say about them?