Four weeks ago, in a bid to pressure authorities to expedite the handling of his case, Ostreicher began a hunger strike.
“Every human rights violation is being broken in my case,” he told JTA this week in a telephone interview from prison. “I have no alternative to getting my freedom unless I become ill and it becomes a humanitarian issue.”
The hunger strike he launched April 15 follows 10 months of appeals to the U.S. State Department. His wife, Miriam Ungar, organized a protest on Ostreicher's behalf on May 3 opposite Bolivia’s United Nations mission.
“She always gave excuses,” Ostreicher said.
Eventually, Ostreicher said, he came to believe that Rodriguez was stealing millions of dollars from the investors. He convinced Zolty to fire Rodriguez, and Ostreicher took over the business.
When Rodriguez disappeared soon after leaving the venture, Ostreicher took out a full-page ad in a major local newspaper offering a $25,000 reward to whoever could find her.
While police investigated Rodriguez for corruption, they discovered that she had purchased a portion of the rice fields from the brother of her drug dealer boyfriend, Maximiliano Dorado.
Bolivian federal prosecutors began to question Ostreicher in March 2011. He continued to travel back and forth to the United States, and approached the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia; Ostreicher says U.S. officials told him not to worry.
“The embassy told me I should be honest with the investigation. That’s what I did,” Ostreicher said. “I wish the U.S. Embassy had told me to get the hell out of the country.”
On the eve of Shavuot last year, when Ostreicher was scheduled to fly home to New York, prosecutors called him in for another round of questioning. Anxious to get home for the holiday, Ostreicher asked if he could come to their office to finish the deposition as soon as possible. He arrived on June 3, responded to questions and thanked the prosecutor for adjusting his schedule.
Moments later, Ostreicher was arrested. The grandfather of 11 says he was shoved into a cell with no toilet or shower that stank of urine and feces.
The next day at his arraignment, the judge charged Ostreicher with being “the representative of Andre Zolty” and having “commercial relations with Maximiliano Dorado, both people wanted in their countries because of links with drug trafficking and money laundering … proving the circle between Andre Zolty, Maxi Dorado ... and Claudia Liliana Rodríguez Espitia.”
Source: JTA By Ben Sales