On May 12, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights will focus a spotlight on the case of Jacob Ostreicher, an American imprisoned without charge for almost a year in a Bolivian prison.
The 53-year-old American from Brooklyn is being held for an investment opportunity turned sour and allegedly linked to the laundering of drug money.
The most recent State Department Human Rights Report for Bolivia confirmed a recurring problem with prolonged incarcerations such as that of Ostreicher:
Denial of justice [in Bolivia] due to prolonged detention remained a problem. Although the law establishes that neither the investigatory phase nor the trial phase of a case can exceed 36 months combined, the NGO Construir estimated that in general 75 percent of suspects were held in preventive detention longer than the legal limits.
Clearly, Ostreicher and his family believe he is innocent and should be released. The U.S. Congress, playing a watchdog role, will shine a powerful light on what appears to be a miscarriage of Bolivian injustice. The hearing will certainly show how an American can become the victim of the same shabby, shameful treatment meted out to ordinary Bolivians in a dysfunctional judicial system that has become politicized at the top but unreformed at the bottom. Much of the responsibility for the disorder belongs to the government of President Evo Morales.
Coincidentally, Bolivia just concluded hosting the annual ministerial gathering of the Organization of America States (OAS). At the gathering, Morales, along with other populist, anti-American leaders, railed against the OAS’s inter-American human rights systems. Reported The Washington Post:
Morales is calling for the elimination of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.… Along with leftist allies in Venezuela and Ecuador, Morales wants to weaken the independent commission along with a related Organization of American States body that monitors freedom of expression.
According to Morales, the OAS has only served to “perpetuate the hegemony of the U.S. in its attempts to repress social movements and combat socialism” in the region.
For the struggling Morales, it is much easier to bash the OAS and the U.S. than to take up the difficult task of reform at home. And certainly Morales—not one to miss a conspiratorial beat—will claim international media, and the U.S. Congress’s attention to the Ostreicher case is just added proof of how they are ganging up on his impoverished but progressive little country.
Instead of moving to correct a legal travesty and releasing Ostreicher, a cynical, anti-American like Morales will continue scoring rhetorical points at the expense of a man’s freedom and the U.S., which he so obviously dislikes.