LA PAZ – The attorney for a 53-year-old American man who is on hunger strike in the Bolivian prison where he has been held for 11 months without formal charges said that he sent a complaint to the U.S. Embassy in La Paz because of the scant progress being made on his case.
Jacob Ostreicher’s defense attorney, Jimmy Montaño, told Efe that he originally decided that the embassy should not intervene “so that it wouldn’t be an obstacle,” given that “bilateral relations between Bolivia and the United States aren’t the best.”
“But faced with such an outrageous situation, today I’m sending the American Embassy a note recounting all the violations of this citizen’s rights and guarantees, so that they make the corresponding complaints to international organizations, because in Bolivia that’s no longer possible,” Montaño said.
Ostreicher, a flooring contractor from Brooklyn, New York, came to Bolivia in 2008 to start a rice plantation in the eastern province of Santa Cruz with several partners.
According to Montaño, in 2011 prosecutors began investigating him for alleged money laundering, because two Brazilians from whom Ostreicher’s Bolivian administrator, Viviana Rodriguez, bought real estate property, were suspected of having ties to the illegal drug trade.
One of the Brazilians escaped and the other was deported for using a fake ID, while Ostreicher and Rodriguez have been behind bars ever since without any formal charges brought against them – a frequent occurence in Bolivia where 70 percent of inmates are either awaiting trial or still pursuing appeals.
The attorney said that his client has produced all the documentation needed to prove the legal origin of the money.
“They opened the investigation based on the amount of money involved. Mr. Ostreicher came to this country for the sole purpose of investing and creating jobs,” he said.
Ostreicher went on a hunger strike a month ago to attract attention to his case and, according to Montaño, “he says he’s ready to die” to get his rights back.
Bolivian officials have refused to discuss Ostreicher’s case publicly.
Ostreicher’s supporters sent a petition to the White House on May 3 via the “We the People” Web site, asking the U.S. government to help win the businessman’s release. EFE