At times I may just be a simple country boy from the middle of nowhere, but I’ve never understood the penchant for the rich and powerful to make their buildings hover over the poor and destitute, as if to rub their faces in the disparity. I’d seen it in the Middle East, I’d seen it in small Asian villages, I’d seen it in New York City. Bolivia was no different. Large, multi-story compounds with expansive lawns and pools, wide driveways filled with expensive cars, so often smack-dab in the middle of the common townsfolk just trying to eke out a living.
Maybe it’s to fuel their ego, or to send a message. I’m no social psychologist and can’t claim to know the real reasons why, or why the locals don’t rise up against their oppressors. Then again, our presence there was something of a motivated response, wasn’t it? That’s the problem with stakeouts – too many hours to just sit and think.
Gaz and I were posted up about a kilometer away from the expansive estate that was supposed to serve as “neutral ground” for the peace negotiations – I know as an agent of Uncle Sam I’m supposed to be gung-ho for the idea of miles and pounds instead of meters and kilos, but really nobody save the US uses Imperial any more and if I’m back on home soil for long, something’s screwed up enough that units of measurement are the least of my concerns. Regardless, we were a few minutes’ run from the meeting site, waiting for confirmation that El Seño was actually present – no use blowing our cover if the prize didn’t show.
Though the area was scanned from afar for complications – extra soldiers of any kind, aerial support, unusual activity in the surrounding village, that kind of thing – the density of the jungle made getting clear intelligence difficult. Having a drone fly over at 30,000 feet “wasn’t feasible” I had been told, so we crouched in the wet Bolivian jungle, at the edge of a dusty, haggard town, waiting for word from untrustworthy sources that our mission was a go. I’d grumble about logistics or the lack thereof, but honestly it was a better circumstance than Gaz and I had seen on our last tour together, halfway around the world. The comparison didn’t make it any more pleasant, but at least we knew it could always be worse.
Two beeps sounded in our earpieces, signaling that it was our time to shine. One of the rebel commanders who had gone into the meeting carried a small transponder and was told to signal when El Seño made his appearance. With the pieces all on the board, Gaz and I double-checked our meager equipment loadouts and set off on a run toward the estate. The jungle never truly cooled off so even under the watchful eye of the moon we worked up a good sweat. An errant village car rumbled past on the main road leading out of town, and we made our incursion.
Even prepared, well-trained guards can and will be taken by surprise, if attacked from an unexpected angle. The town may have looked right at home in war-torn Bosnia, maybe with more Catholic iconography, but that provided many unique and sheltered angles of approach. Gaz dropped the first with a well-placed shot from the second floor of what used to be someone’s house, and as his partner turned to investigate I came up from behind and put him to rest as well. Two down, however many others El Seño brought left to go.