Bolivia police raid Jewish center


NEW YORK (JTA) — Bolivian police raided a Jewish center in northeastern Bolivia and arrested a Jewish outreach worker.

Police showed up Wednesday at a center in Rurrenabaque run by a Chabad rabbi in what the rabbi, Aharon Freiman, called an act of intimidation and provocation.

The reason for the raid was not clear. Users of the outreach center, which claims to be affiliated with Chabad but whose director is not recognized by the Chabad-Lubavitch organization, have been at odds with the proprietor of a local restaurant and neighbors, some of whom have complained of noise. However, Freiman told JTA he could not rule out the possibility of nationalist motives.

“They want us to leave this place. Why? I don’t know,” Freiman said in a telephone interview from Bolivia. “It could be because of the conflict with the restaurant. It could be for nationalist reasons.”

Jewish community representatives elsewhere in Bolivia said police came to quell a disturbance resulting from fighting and drunkenness.

The director of American Friends of Chabad-Lubavitch, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, said the center was not affiliated with the Chabad movement.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has taken a hard line against political opponents, expelling the U.S. ambassador to Bolivia last year because, Morales said, the ambassador was plotting with his political opponents. Last week, Bolivian police killed three foreigners said to be involved in a plot to assassinate Morales.

In recent days, two Israelis have been arrested in Bolivia on drug charges, Freiman said. The rabbi did not identify the outreach worker who was arrested, but said police confiscated his passport during the raid in Rurrenabaque and arrested him when he tried to retrieve his passport in the capital city of La Paz.

Freiman said he was perplexed by the police action.

“This is not a nation of laws,” he said. “It’s a country where anyone who gets something in his head can do it.”

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