True Crime Rusty Young Marching Powder

ISBN 13: 9780330419581

Marching Powder

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9780330419581: Marching Powder

MARCHING POWDER is the story of Thomas McFadden, a small-time English drug smuggler who was arrested in Bolivia and thrown inside the notorious San Pedro prison. He found himself in a bizarre world, the prison reflecting all that is wrong with South American society. Prisoners have to pay an entrance fee and buy their own cells (the alternative is to sleep outside and die of exposure), prisoners' wives and children often live inside too, high quality cocaine is manufactured and sold from the prison. Thomas ended up making a living by giving backpackers tours of the prison - he became a fixture on the backpacking circuit and was named in the Lonely Planet guide to Bolivia. When he was told that for a bribe of $5000 his sentence could be overturned, it was the many backpackers who'd passed through who sent him the money. Sometimes shocking, sometimes funny, MARCHING POWDER is an always riveting story of survival. 'All the staples of the prison memoir are here: sadistic guards, an attempted break-out, the terrors of solitary confinement, the joys of freedom ...The result is a truly gripping piece of testimony' Sunday Telegraph 'This exotic, cautionary yarn opens the abyss beneath our wealthy world' Uncut

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

Rusty Young is an Australian lawyer who met Thomas McFadden on a tour of San Pedro. He was so impressed by him that he stayed there (voluntarily) for three months in order to write his story. Thomas McFadden is now a free man, living in London.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

MARCHING POWDER
PART ONE RUSTY Three days before I was arrested and ordered to leave the Republic of Bolivia, guards at San Pedro prison in La Paz caught me with several micro-cassettes hidden down my pants. I was on my way out of the main gates when they conducted the search. They were looking for cocaine, which is what most visitors smuggled out of San Pedro, and were slightly confused by what they found in its stead. At the time, I believed I had got away with it by convincing the guards that the cassettes were the latest in Western music technology. However, three days later I was arrested on an unrelated charge. To this day, I do not know whether the police had found out about the book I was writing for Thomas McFadden, the prison's most famous inmate, or whether they thought I was a spy of some description. Either way, they were extremely suspicious as to why a foreign lawyer on a tourist visa had been staying voluntarily in Bolivia's main penitentiary facility for three months. During the first month of my stay in the prison I had told the guards at the gate that I was Thomas's cousin. For the second month, the guards probably assumed I was there in order to do drugs, like the other Western tourists who arrived at San Pedro carrying their guidebooks and departed wearing their sunglasses. By the third month, the guards let me in and out without question. Provided I paid them enough money, they believed whatever I told them. Then they arrested me. Ironically, the arresting officer chose bribery as the pretext. He was the same major I had been bribing every week since I had been there. I slipped him the customary twenty bolivianos as we shook hands on my way in, but on that occasion he looked at me as if we had never met before. 'Give me your passport,' he said, glaring incredulously at the folded note that had appeared in his hand. I did as I was told. 'Now follow me.' It was a Saturday morning when they arrested me. They placed me in the police holding cells to stew for a while. Monday was a public holiday. The tourist police would not be able to process my crime until Tuesday, they said. I would have to wait for three days. No, I could not leave my passport as collateral and come back on Tuesday. No, I could not have any food - I was under investigation. No, I could not make a phone call - this was not a Hollywood movie. Having spent three months in the prison, I wasn't particularly rattled by any of this. I had been listening to Thomas's stories about the Bolivian police for long enough to know that it would end up in a bribe. When they asked which hotel I was staying at and hinted that they would search my room and find drugs, I gave them a phoney address. When they left me alone in the cell, I went through my wallet and found the card of the hostel where one of my traveller friends was staying. They would not have needed to plant anything there; he had smuggled ten grams of cocaine out of the prison in a book the day before. I ripped the hostel card to shreds and then chewed it into a soggy ball, just like Thomas had done nearly five years earlier after he was busted at La Paz's airport with five kilos of cocaine concealed in his luggage. Four hours later, I heard the police coming for me. I thought about my dead cat in order to induce some tears and continued to pretend not to speak much Spanish. Now that he had 'cracked' me, the captain at the police station offered me a deal. 'You have fallen badly, señor gringo. Bribery is a very serious crime in this country. You will have to pay.' I nodded solemnly. My tears of 'fear' mixed with tears of gratitude and irony, but I tried not to smile. I managed to bargain the captain down by emptying my pockets and showing him all the money I had on me. The rest of my money was hidden in my socks in three rolls. I knew how much was in each roll in the event that the negotiation skills I had developed while in San Pedro required greater reserves. The captain had one more condition before he would make my charge sheet disappear: I had to agree to leave the country and never return. That would mean the end of work on the book that Thomas and I were writing. 'If I see you in San Pedro prison again,' the captain threatened, 'I'll send you to jail. ¿Comprende?' I nodded. Despite its paradoxical phraseology, I knew this threat was serious. The police wanted to scare me off from whatever it was I was doing with the micro-cassettes. I left immediately for the dirty town of Desaguadero, on the Peruvian border. As soon as I arrived, I got stamps in my passport as proof to show the captain that I had at least obeyed the first part of his instructions. Peruvian immigration laws prevented me from officially leaving the country on the same day as I entered it, but that did not stop me from walking back across the border to get a hotel for the night on the Bolivian side, which was cheaper. I rang Thomas in prison. I had to call his mobile phone, since the inmates in the four-star section of San Pedro where Thomas had his apartment were not allowed land lines. I had not told him about the guards finding the micro-cassettes, which we were using to record our interviews, because I knew he would have been angry. 'This isn't a game, Rusty,' he had lectured me on numerous occasions. 'This is my life you're playing with here. These people are not joking, man.' When he answered the phone, Thomas was unsympathetic. 'Where were you, man? I waited all day.' I told him I'd been arrested. 'Thanks a lot, man. You ruined my life,' he said, before hanging up on me. I knew he would want me to call again, so I waited half an hour before buying another phone card. I didn't even need to say who was calling. 'You is a stupid kid, Rusty,' Thomas said, as soon as he picked up the phone. I could tell by his voice that he had taken a few lines of coke. 'I told you this would happen if you wasn't careful.' The coke seemed to have calmed him down a little. 'So, what am I going to do?' I asked him. 'We have to bribe them again. We'll have to call the governor of the whole prison. That's going to be an expensive bribe, man.' When Thomas said 'we' in reference to spending money, he always meant that it would be my money we would spend. I got my Peruvian exit stamp the following morning and then returned to San Pedro prison. Thomas had already arranged for me to bribe the governor. It cost us one hundred US dollars. I continued to make flippant remarks until a week later when the police torturedThomas's friend Samir to death, then left him hanging in his prison cell by a bed sheet in order to make it look like suicide. Samir had been threatening to write a letter to parliament exposing high-level corruption in the police force. Imagine if they knew what Thomas and I were doing. I had not taken the danger seriously until then. The story of Samir's death was front-page news. When I showed the article to Thomas, he didn't look at it. 'I told you these people are not joking, man. You didn't believe me.'  
 
I had heard about Thomas McFadden long before I met him. A group of Israelis I met while trekking to the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu had spoken of him with reverence. An Australian couple had told me about him during an Amazon jungle tour out of Rurrenabaque. Indeed, his fame had spread all the way along the South American backpacking circuit affectionately dubbed by travellers 'the gringo trail', which extends from Tierra del Fuego in Argentina up to Santa Marta in Colombia. The jail in which Thomas was housed was even more famous than he was. I had heard of it as far back as Mexico, even before I'd heard of Thomas. 'When you're in Bolivia, you have to visit the prison,' a blonde Canadian traveller had advised me in all seriousness. 'What for?' I asked. 'It's unbelievable. The inmates have jacuzzis and the Internet, and they grow marijuana on the rooftop.' When I looked at him quizzically, he added, 'It's listed in all the guidebooks. Look it up.' As soon as no one was watching, I pulled out my Lonely Planet guidebook from the bottom of my backpack where it was wrapped in a T-shirt along with my moisturising cream. 'The prison' was el Penal de San Pedro; by all accounts, the world's craziest penitentiary system - where wealthy inmates lived in luxury apartments with their wives and children and ate at restaurants inside the prison. And, as I later learned, Thomas McFadden was its tour guide. As I approached the city of La Paz, talk of Thomas and San Pedro intensified. There were flyers on the noticeboards in the Hostal Austria and Hotel Torino advertising prison tours. The foreign travellers I met talked of almost nothing else. Among their ranks, the best informedwas Uri, a German backpacker with an unkempt beard who had made the dilapidated El Carretero hostel his new home. Uri was an expert on anything to do with South America. His attire was an eclectic assortment of local apparel picked up during his travels: a scarf from Chile, a Peruvian poncho, an imitation Ché Guevara beret and necklaces made from rainforest seeds sold by Brazilian street hippies. He was too tall and skinny for any of it to look right, but somehow he carried it off. The truth was, all these fashion accessories lent him a certain kudos among the other travellers. When I talked to Uri, the basis of Thomas's fame became more apparent: not only was he the prison's tour guide, he was also its resident cocaine dealer. 'The best coke in the world comes from Bolivia,' Uri informed me, sitting up on his stained dormitory mattress in order to light his second joint of the morning. He deliberately directed a stream of smoke my way. 'And the best coke in Bolivia comes from inside San Pedro prison. The inmates manufacture it in laboratories inside.' The fact that convicted drug traffickers could continue their trade from prison would have struck me as ironical in any other country. In Bolivia, it didn't warrant comment. 'So, you know this guy Thomas who does the tours, then?' I asked. 'Of course. He's my main supplier. Why? How much coke do you need?' I liked the way Uri said need instead of want. 'So, how do I get to the prison?' I asked, ignoring his offer. And how do I find Thomas?' 'Just catch a taxi,' he answered, making his way towards the door that hung tentatively by its remaining hinge. 'But don't worry about finding Thomas. He'll find you.'  
 
I set out that very afternoon. Chilly air blanketed the city of La Paz even though the day was beautifully clear and the sun abnormally brilliant. At three thousand, six hundred metres above sea level, the thinner atmosphere imbued the light with a slightly surreal quality. The sky emanated a rarefied, crystalline blue, and everything looked sharper and more in focus. Above the city basin, the snow-capped peaks of Mount Illimani loomed unrealistically close. According to the map, the prison was within walking distance, but I hailed a taxi so as to make no mistake. 'To San Pedro prison,' I ordered the driver in my best Spanish. 'Sí, señor.' He nodded nonchalantly and headed off into the chaotic La Paz traffic with the obligatory dangling plaster statuette of Jesus swinging erratically from his rearview mirror. I wondered whether I had pronounced the destination correctly. Did he not think it a trifle odd that a foreigner would want to visit the prison? We crossed the Prado and, almost immediately, found ourselves hemmed in by traffic. My gaze roamed aimlessly out the window and over the scenes in the street where hawkers threaded through rows of cars, offering bananas, cigarettes and fake leather mobile phone covers to motorists. A stout old woman sat on an upturned box beside her hotplate that milked its power from an illegal cable running down a nearby electricity pole. A young indigenous girl was slowly making her way up the steep hill carrying a baby on her back wrapped in colourful cloth. In her arms she held a heavy bundle of potatoes. She was stooped forward with their weight, but didn't stop to catch her breath. If she lost her momentum, I sensed it might be forever. Through the other window I saw a malnourished young boy, dressed in dirty jeans and rubber sandals made from old tyres, weaving his way lazily around the maze of traffic, half-heartedly offering to wash windscreens. The drivers ignored him, but before the lights changed, he had tipped dirty detergent water on someone's window and begun wiping it without being asked. The driver must have felt guilty and started to search for a few coins just as the lights turned green. A dark-skinned policeman blew his whistle, trying to advance the cars, but none of them could move because the front driver was busy looking for coins for the boy. The policeman kept blowing his whistle and commanding the cars forward. Still, nothing happened. By the time the driver had found some coins, the lights were red again. My driver breathed heavily through his nose. We continued through the traffic. Only a block further up the hill, we rounded a plaza and the driver braked suddenly, interrupting my reverie. 'Aquí no más,' he said, pointing to a large metal gate set in a high, yellow wall. It did not look at all like a prison. We were still in the middle of town. There were no bars, no barbed wire and no signs. 'Are you sure?' I frowned. 'Sí, seguro,' he replied, pointing once more at the building and then holding out his hand to receive payment. 'Fifteen bolivianos, please.' It seemed he now spoke English. I shook my head and smiled to show I had been in the country long enough to know the cost of a taxi ride. 'Six.' 'OK. Thirteen.' Eventually, he dropped his price a further two bolivianos, but he couldn't go any lower than that. Cost cutting in Bolivian schools has resulted in generations of taxi drivers who do not know the numbers one to ten. They learn to count from eleven upwards. I paid him the correct fare and he laughed good-naturedly and then drove off. I was still dubious about whether this was the right place. Apart from two uniformed policemen leaning idly against a metal railing, there was no indication that there was a jail behind those walls. Besides, many buildings in La Paz, even apartment blocks and private businesses, could afford to have state-paid policemen stationed outside. As it turned out, the driver was correct; this was the prison. It was inexplicably situated on prime real estate, occupying an entire block in the city centre and fronting on to the beautiful San Pedro Plaza. As I looked up at the enormous walls again, deliberating on my next move, one of the policemen appeared beside me. 'Tour, yes? You Eengleesh. You American. Prison tour?' He motioned that I should approach the gates. It seemed I was in the right place. However, I baulked until he said something that caught my attention: '¿Necesita a Thomas?' 'Sí, Thomas,' I confirmed, still at a safe distance. He became even more excited and beckoned frantically for me to accompany him. 'Sí. Thomas! No cameras, señor! No fotos,' he advised, leading me inside. The outer gateway opened up into a high-ceilinged, spacious passageway and there, directly in front of me, was another set of gates, this one consisting of vertical bars. On my side of the divide was a wooden table manned by several indolent guards in green uniforms. On the other side, pressed tightly against the metal gate, jostling each other and vying for optimal viewing positions, was a sea of expectant Bolivian prisoners. Scarcely had I time to take in this initial spectacle, before my appearance generat...

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Descripción Pan, 2004. Taschenbuch. Estado de conservación: Neu. Neu Neuware, Importqualität, auf Lager, Versand per Büchersendung - MARCHING POWDER is the story of Thomas McFadden, a small-time English drug smuggler who was arrested in Bolivia and thrown inside the notorious San Pedro prison. He found himself in a bizarre world, the prison reflecting all that is wrong with South American society. Prisoners have to pay an entrance fee and buy their own cells (the alternative is to sleep outside and die of exposure), prisoners' wives and children often live inside too, high quality cocaine is manufactured and sold from the prison. 384 pp. Englisch. Nº de ref. de la librería INF1000424024

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