Bolivian police forces raided a Chabad center in the northeastern town of Rurrenabaque a number of times in recent days, ordered its closure and arrested a number of Israeli tourists who were staying there.
Rabbi Aharon Fraiman, who heads the center, told Ynet the police refused to give him a reason for the raid, but rumors throughout the town have linked the police activity to an assassination attempt on the Bolivian president last week.
On Wednesday, after the center temporarily resumed activity, Fraiman, who was almost arrested himself, said this was nothing more than a local dispute: "An anti-Semitic restaurateur who thinks we are hurting his livelihood is doing everything to get us out of here," the rabbi said.
Police at Chabad center in Rurrenabaque (Photo: Curtesy of Chabad.info)
On Thursday, however, the multiple arrests, closure of the center and the local media's coverage of police activity in the area, led the rabbi to believe it was something more: "Apparently it's not him, but something bigger. He doesn't have this much power".
"Rumors floating around say that it has something to do with an assassination attempt on the president," the rabbi said. "But on the other hand, the media is reporting all kinds of other things, like that the Chabad center here is involved in dealing drugs and the like.
"Meanwhile, I hired a lawyer here to handle the case, but this is not a law-abiding state, and so far, no one has told us what the commotion is about. They also haven't showed us any closure injunctions."
The emissary told Ynet about one Israeli tourist who was arrested by the Bolivian immigration police, taken to the airport in handcuffs and deported from the country. He also said there were a few others still under arrest.
"I am working to have them released from custody, and am also trying to contact the Foreign Ministry or some kind of Israeli representative here. So far, I've had no success," he said.
Rurrenabaque is one of the central tourist attractions for travelers in Bolivia, including many Israeli backpackers. The town is a center from which tourists leave for trips to the jungles and swamp areas in northern Bolivia.