The Perfume of Poison
On Bolivian Bad Faith and Easy Bribing
New in the Website
On April 2011, things changed sharply. After publishing an article on my website, I had a humble lunch and climbed all the way up to the guesthouse I was using at the time. La Paz is a steep city. Once in the room I experienced a strange pain in my chest which expanded into my left arm and then to all my bones. A sharp burning pain. Yet, I have no history of heart disease, I am not overweight, and my cholesterol level is reasonable. In La Paz, it couldn’t be dengue fever; few insects live at such altitude. After a few hours, most of the pain was gone; within forty eight hours it disappeared entirely. A few days later, the same thing happened, under similar circumstances. By now, I had little doubt it was something in the food. Was that an attempt to poison me?
Why would somebody try to poison me now? Why after such a long and well documented persecution? I can’t tell for sure; it was the terrorists’ decision. It could be another attempt to kill me without leaving recognizable traces. It could be an attempt to delay my work. It could be an attempt to instill fear so that I would censor myself.
By then I was disconnected from Bolivians. Unable to speak properly due to the Israeli-Bolivian attack of July 2009, I could neither preach nor teach. The churches here were manipulated; its members served Caesar and not God. They had been instrumental in the attack; soon after it, I left my congregation. I slept in guesthouses, lived through the website and the meager sales of The Cross of Bethlehem; the Bolivian society surrounding me had no place in my life and thus couldn’t be used by Israel to delay me. Israel was furious at my publications; that could be seen through the hate emails, the evil lies on the web, the street attacks. Maybe they had decided to adopt a new violent approach.
In my hundred years of solitude, I began studying the poisoning events. The main question was how they staged the event without previous notice. Poisoning demands preparations, and nobody knew where I was to eat on a given day. My choices of random locations (La Paz is weighed down with cheap joints serving set lunches for about a dollar) seemed safe. Reconstructing the events was possible; I have an almost photographic memory. Soon, combining the data of the poisonings events with the one of adjacent days when I wasn’t poisoned, a pattern emerged. Inadvertently, I had created a window offering access to my food.
The second part of The Cross of Bethlehem describes the Asian period of my persecution. One of the problems I had there was food. It looked so different that I seldom knew what the ingredients were. It took me six months to discover that a soup I liked was prepared with insects’ flour; by then I already loved it. A thing I learned quickly is that market stalls filled up with customers were a sign of good and safe food; I would walk into a market and head straight for them, ignoring places offering comfy seats but that were empty. Restaurant owners all over the world are well aware of this effect; they often sit friends in a prominent location of their establishment early in the evening in order to attract customers. The Bolivian watchers had noticed my favoring crowded sites. Thus, tricking me into an establishment collaborating with them was relatively easy; I had made poisoning me an easy game.
Rearranging my life was difficult; when living in poverty, changes are not easy. Yet, slowly I began finding alternatives. Checking my food for poison—tasting a little bit and waiting a couple of hours—became second nature. Bread and cheese became my main food until poisoning events related to them appeared. Occasionally, water—including the guesthouse tap water—and soft drinks were poisoned. Most days I moved around with a little bag full of food already checked so that I wouldn’t be excessively hungry. Then, on June 11, I left a long writing session genuinely hungry. Almost blinded with hunger, I entered a cheap restaurant assuming that two months after I stopped eating in this type of establishments, I’ll catch the poisoners’ unprepared. I gulped down an eighth of a chicken, the regular size of a Bolivian serving. My assumption proved wrong; I barely managed to reach the guesthouse. Once in my room, I collapsed in excruciating pain. Testing the strength of my will and faith—nothing else supported me—I reached the nearest internet kiosk and alerted my American lawyer and a few friends outside Bolivia. Unlike when running across Asia, leaving tracks was vital now.
Other things worked against me. Bolivians have no scruples and identifying me is easy; I look nothing like them and Westerners are scarce here. The Bolivians crazed walking style and violent streets transformed every path into a wild run for my life, even without the presence of poisoners. People are assassinated here for a worthless cellular phone. In The Cross of Bethlehem, I described the Delay Effect, which enables detecting state informants easily. It works fine, but in the case of food it was tricky. Many people could be cooperating unknowingly, after having been subliminally influenced by a “seeding agent.” The principle is simple: looking at someone drinking makes you thirsty. Place a few people drinking next to a collaborating kiosk along an excruciatingly steep path and the poisoner’s job is almost done.
The painful event left my mind alert; despite the pain, I could think. On the long night that followed, I promised myself that it would never happen again. Zero tolerance to poisonings. The decision was harsh since its implementation was brutal in its demands. First, I needed to break routines. Every day I was to buy food and water from different shops, at different hours of the day. Luckily, La Paz is little more than a large street market. Even then, it was imperative to block the capability of the terrorists to predict my moves. Large detours, circular paths, repetitive paths and other fastidious types of delay became second nature to me. It demanded also frequent changes in my diet; one day it was rich in carbohydrates, the next one was rich in proteins. Some days I would consume several items—a bite of each—others just bread and cheese. Every day was a new challenge of creativity. Yet, creating a suitable diversity with a limited budget was difficult. The products I bought were of a limited nature; thus, I was vulnerable. June 11 was the last poisoning event. All other attempts were spotted before completion.
That wasn’t enough. It was vital for me to pass a message this wouldn’t be tolerated. I did manage to get a sample of poison, but my lawyer found out it wouldn’t be possible to transfer it legally to the US for analysis. I needed to find a different way. One cold day of July, I left the internet kiosk were I was working and reached a nearby coffee shop where I was well known. I have stopped visiting it after the poisoning events began; yet, I was recognized and greeted. I asked for a bun, but skipped the coffee. Taking the paper bag with care, I left the establishment and returned to the nearby Plaza del Estudiante, halfway towards the internet kiosk I was working in that day. A policeman was suspiciously speaking through his walkie-talkie, and a shoeshine man was working behind him. I approached the shoeshine man and gave away the bun with a smile. The policeman hardly waited for my departure. Still speaking to an undisclosed partner, he took the bun away from the astonished shoeshine man. Bingo, I had caught them red-handed. Then, I began leaving food at the guesthouse in prominent places. Bolivians are scavengers; the bits always disappeared within minutes, also samples suspected as poisoned. The poisoners should understand the gravity of their actions, one way or another, and I had no other way to pass the message. In parallel, I made the issue public through my website, my lawyer, and several international institutions. Scared to death of publicity due to their successful “sugar” business with the US, I had succeeded to turn the wheel around.
Yet, the terrorists were still on the streets. This wasn’t over yet.
This is the chapter of the same name in The Cross of Bethlehem II: Back in Bethlehem.
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