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Those Crazy, Crazy Santa Cruz Nights

Very strange USA-y things have been going on in Santa Cruz, Bolivia this week. First up, the US ambassador to Bolivia, Philip Goldberg....

Goldberg (no face paint)

.... went on a visit to the region ostensibly to do some USAID business and stuff. In the words of Goldberg, "......I went to Santa Cruz for various reasons; to deliver aid packages, I was at the inauguration of the special Olympics with the Prefect (Ruben Costas), and I also showed via tele-info the aid in this sector and the aid given in computing. I also took advantage of this visit to meet, in public, with the prefect Costas, only because this is part of my diplomatic duties."

Which would be nice if it were true, of course, but Goldberg has been caught in a big fat lie. Here's an image of the "public meeting" Goldberg had with Costas....

.....and it's only because a cameraman at a local TV station was smart enough to get a shot of them together as they entered and left the Prefecture building....

..... that Goldberg actually admitted he met Costas at all. And that thing about "public meeting" is total bull, as according to all sources they had a one-on-one private, closed door meeting that went on for an hour and a half and nobody but nobody was even let into the corridor that leads to the door they were behind. Are the Special Olympics such an interesting subject of conversation?

But just when you think it couldn't get any weirder and cloak'n'daggerier, it does. In the wee small hours of that same Monday/Tuesday, at 3:30am to be precise, a drunken man was arrested for causing a disturbance at a Santa Cruz nightclub. He barged his way in to the late night establishment (that's Otto's nice way of saying 'whorehouse', ok?) known as 'Curris Internacional' and started threatening both public and staff. When the police were called in and arrested him they found that;
  • His name is Gregory Gordon Michel
  • He is a US citizen
  • He is a member of the US military
  • He was carrying a loaded .45mm handgun with three spare clips
  • He was also carrying a folding police officer's nightstick
He was taken to the local police station when just 30 minutes later a posse of his fellow citizens arrived, claimed Gregory Michel was protected by Diplomatic Immunity and spirited him away. Here's the Bolivian media report on all this if you don't believe me (and I wouldn't blame you, frankly), and here's a photo of Gregory Michel taken last night looking 'tired and emotional'.

I did wonder if the Bolivian media had mis-spelled the name, but that's how it was spelled out at an official press conference, so I doubt they got it wrong. Also, the name does fit a LTC Gregory (Greg) Michel attached to the Mississippi National Guard who came back from a tour of duty in Iraq in 2007. He was pretty clearly in the firing line in Iraq, too, as eleven of his fellow soldiers were killed out there (RIP). If you want to e-mail him here's the address:

But amazingly enough the high-ranking Michel hasn't replied to my mail yet (he was promoted from major when he got back from Iraq). I hope you get a better result.

So all in all, strange that all this US activity around Santa Cruz has come to light. What with long unscheduled meetings between USA mouthpieces and Evo-hating local chiefs, and drunken, battle-hardened military types waving guns around and getting diplo immunity, it's enough to make you think they were planning something over there..........

UPDATE Wednesday morning: Ace bloggers Bina at Restless and Duderino at Abiding have got their own angle on the story. Go check 'em out. Gotta love Bina's Tweety Pie, and I agree with El Dude when he says there's plenty of food for a real journo to get their teeth into here.