Title: Bolivia Drug News
Giuseppe - July 6, 2009 11:57 PM (GMT)
Bolivia raids 'huge cocaine lab'
President Evo Morales is claiming a big success against drugs traffickers
Drug enforcement officials have raided what they call the biggest cocaine laboratory ever found in Bolivia.
The facility, said to have the capacity to produce up to 100kg (220lb) each day, was discovered in a rural area of the department of Santa Cruz.
The government described the raid as the most important success against drug traffickers for a long time.
A senior Bolivian anti-narcotics officer, Oscar Nina, said five Colombians were arrested.
The factory is the fourth major facility of its kind to be discovered so far in 2009, Bolivian authorities say.
They say that in all cases a number of Colombian nationals were arrested, accused of working in association with local groups of Bolivian drugs traffickers.
Bolivian Interior Minister Alfredo Rada said it appeared the factories had been operating for about a year.
He accused US anti-narcotics agents of having failed to detect them.
Tension with US
Bolivia suspended the activities of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) within its borders in November 2008, after accusing US officials of conspiring against the left-wing government of President Evo Morales.
Last week. the US confirmed that it would cut trade benefits for Bolivia, and re-impose some import duties on Bolivian goods.
Washington alleged that senior Bolivian officials were encouraging the production of coca, the raw material that is used to make cocaine.
Bolivian President Evo Morales accused US President Barack Obama of slander and lies over the decision.
Much - July 7, 2009 03:16 AM (GMT)
The cia, fbi, dea, atf there all corrupt.
Giuseppe - July 11, 2009 09:37 PM (GMT)
US deports 'minister for cocaine'
Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
Guardian.co.uk, Friday 10 July 2009
In his pomp he was known as the "minister for cocaine", a corrupt and ruthless military despot who collaborated with drug cartels and terrorised Bolivia.
Luis Arce-Gómez, interior minister in the Andean nation's 1980-81 dictatorship, made an infamous warning to foes to "walk around with their wills under their arms".
But when the former burly colonel returned home yesterday he was a shrivelled, white-haired figure too feeble to even walk into the prison where he is expected to end his days.
The United States has deported the 71-year-old to face justice in Bolivia after he spent almost 20 years in a Florida prison for drug trafficking.
Arce-Gómez, who once recruited the Nazi Klaus Barbie as an adviser, faces 30 years in La Paz's Chonchocoro prison for at least eight crimes including genocide and political assassinations.
President Evo Morales thanked the US for deporting a figure whose name once inspired dread among leftists, trade unionists and journalists. "It is a historic day for human rights."
FBI agents escorted Arce-Gómez on the flight from Miami to La Paz where upon arrival he was given oxygen to adjust to the 3,800-meter altitude, covered in a blanket and wooly hat and ferried past astonished onlookers in a wheelchair to a waiting ambulance and convoy of police vehicles.
It was an ignominious homecoming for a man who once typified the hubris and viciousness of South America's right wing military regimes.
Arce-Gómez was an ambitious army officer when the 1980 "cocaine coup" financed by drug traffickers brought his ally General Luis García Meza to power.
Appointed interior minister, he wasted no time arresting, torturing and murdering the regime's real or imagined foes. Records show at least 93 dead, 26 disappeared and 4,000 detained, many of them leftists and union leaders. Barbie, the "butcher of Lyon" who fled to Bolivia after the second world war, gave tips on repression.
According to the US federal indictment, Arce-Gómez turned his impoverished Andean nation into a narco-state by giving drug cartels free rein to produce and ship cocaine in return for large payments. He reportedly charged up to $75,000 every two weeks.
Traffickers who balked had their drugs seized and had to pay even higher sums to retrieve them from government vaults.
After just 13 months the dictatorship collapsed in 1981 and Arce-Gómez fled. He was captured in 1989 and extradited to the US where he was sentenced to a two-decade stretch for drug trafficking.
Upon completing his sentence a US court rejected Arce-Gómez's asylum request and ruled he should be returned to Bolivia where he was convicted in absentia in 1993 for genocide and human rights violations. He faces 30 years without parole.
It is hoped that Arce-Gómez will identify the location of the remains of his disappeared victims, including Marcelo Quiroga, a prominent politician and human rights advocate.
Awaiting him in Chonchocoro prison was his former boss, General Meza, 79, who was caught in Brazil in 1994 and is serving a 30-year sentence.
Junior - July 28, 2011 04:23 AM (GMT)
UK boost for Bolivian battle against cocaine production
By Mattia Cabitza, BBC News, July 27, 2011
The British government has announced a new co-operation deal with Bolivia in the fight against drug trafficking.
During a two-day visit to Bolivia, Britain's Minister for Latin America, Jeremy Browne, said the Serious Organised Crime Agency in London will join forces with the counter-narcotics police in La Paz.
Significant quantities of Bolivian cocaine end up on the streets of Britain.
An example of the co-operation that already exists between Britain and Bolivia in the fight against drug trafficking was shown off during the ministerial visit.
Mr Browne saw for himself how more than £500m ($700m) from Britain has funded the building a forensic drug laboratory, which has proved successful in analysing and verifying evidence in drug smuggling cases.
And Mr Browne outlined the aim of British police working more closely with their Bolivian counterparts in future: "The main purpose of this co-operation will be to provide training on investigative techniques to combat drug smuggling."
The collaboration would also help improve border control, he said.
And he recognised Britain's responsibility as one of the top consumers in Europe of Bolivian cocaine: "We are trying to reduce the demand for drugs in Britain, but we also realise that we do have a responsibility to try to reduce the supply."
Mr Browne called on the Bolivian government to reduce its production of coca, the raw material for making cocaine, which is grown legally in Bolivia for cultural and medicinal purposes.
According to the United Nations, more than 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) are given over to coca farming in Bolivia.
The authorities acknowledge that half of that area supplies drug traffickers. Independent estimates of illicit cultivation are higher.
Junior - September 23, 2011 07:07 PM (GMT)
Bolivian anti-drugs cop jailed for cocaine trafficking
BBC News, September 23, 2011
The former chief of Bolivia's anti-narcotics police has been jailed by an American court for cocaine trafficking.
A Miami federal judge imposed the 14-year sentence on Rene Sanabria, 54.
Gen Sanabria was head of Bolivia's anti-drug agency until 2009, and was an intelligence adviser to the government at the time of his arrest.
He pleaded guilty in June to taking part in a conspiracy to ship hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from Bolivia to Chile and then on to Miami.
The court heard the plot was set up by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as an undercover sting operation.
Sanabria was detained in Panama and taken to the United States by DEA agents for trial.
He had served for 32 years in Bolivia's police force.
The charge carries a required minimum 10-year sentence.
But US District Judge Ursula Ungaro said he was giving Sanabria a higher sentence because of his leadership role, and to send an anti-corruption message to other government officials.
Junior - September 29, 2011 06:24 AM (GMT)
Stable Coca Cultivation does not Mean Victory Against Cocaine in Bolivia
Written by Jeanna Cullinan, InSight, Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Coca cultivation stabilized in Bolivia last year, according to a report by the United Nations, but this has raised concerns that government anti-drug efforts are focusing on this metric, rather than the real issue: cocaine production.
In 2010, there was zero net growth in the area of coca crops, which the Bolivian government monitors through a program supported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
However, estimates of the country’s potential cocaine production and record numbers of interdictions of Bolivian cocaine suggest that focusing on the number of hectares used for cultivating coca may have displaced the more fundamental goal of reducing the amount of Bolivian cocaine available on the black market.
The Yungas province, in the eastern Andean highlands of La Paz department, and Chapare province, in the northern region of Cochabamba department, are the major coca-growing areas in Bolivia. These two regions account for almost 99 percent of Bolivia’s total coca cultivation, with the remainder grown in the Tamayo province of La Paz department, on Bolivia’s northwest border with Peru.
Up to 12,000 hectares of coca, an amount which the government has estimated as sufficient to meet demand by traditional users of the coca leaf, can legally be grown in the north and south areas of Yungas province, as well as in a small area of Cochabamba province. However, the cultivation of the plant far surpasses this legal limit in both Yungas, which cultivated 20,500 hectares in 2010, and in Cochabamba, where 10,100 hectares were recorded.
Law 1008 restricts cultivation for traditional use to the Yungas and Tamayo provinces and calls for eradication of coca crops grown outside traditional "cocalero" (coca growing) areas, including all crops grown in the Chapare region. However, the Bolivian government is currently considering reforms to Law 1008 and, based on a study analyzing the legal demand level for coca funded by the European Union, the country may increase the legal limit to 20,000 hectares. Perhaps in anticipation of this change, the government has reached an agreement with coca farmers in Chapare to allow cultivation of 4,000 hectares and announced that it would purchase an additional 4,000 hectares of “excess” coca leaf for medicinal and agricultural use.
The 31,000 hectares under coca cultivation in 2010 represent a negligible increase over the 30,900 recorded in 2009 and 30,500 in 2008. However, the question of whether coca cultivation in Bolivia has stabilized also depends on other factors. The UNODC monitoring program makes use of satellite images, aerial photographs and video, and field verification to estimate the amount of land dedicated to coca cultivation. However, cultivation is only one of a number of elements that together form the total potential production of cocaine. The land area under cultivation may not provide an accurate indication of the quantity of coca yield per harvest nor reliable estimates of potential coca production.
Decreases to the amount of land used for cultivation can be offset by higher yield per hectare, concentration of cocaine alkaloid in the coca leaf and efficiency of laboratories used to process the coca leaf into a cocaine paste. Coca farmers can improve crop yield through increasing the density of coca planted per hectare, employing fertilizers and replacing old coca plant strains with of genetically modified coca plants with much higher yields.
According the the UNODC’s 2011 World Drug Report, the high number of cocaine seizures may indicate that global cocaine production may be much higher than previously estimated because of the increased “efficiency of clandestine laboratories in extracting cocaine alkaloids from coca leaves.” The United Nations has found evidence that traffickers using the “Colombian method” in Bolivia have “already reached efficiency levels comparable to Colombia.
Although Bolivian authorities have cited the record number of cocaine seizures in 2010 as evidence of the government’s success in combating drug trafficking, higher seizures may simply reflect higher coca production. Because the cost of entry into cocaine trafficking is relatively low, a common problem with supply reduction efforts is that suppliers anticipate losses from interdiction and compensate by increasing production.
Junior - November 3, 2011 11:22 PM (GMT)
Morales Pledges to Eradicate 10,000Ha of Coca by Year’s End
Written by William W. Cummings, InSight.com
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Bolivian President Evo Morales announced that his government will eradicate 10,000 hectares of coca before the calendar year is up, although his claims that this would represent a new record are belied by United Nations data.
According to Prensa Latina and Tarija’s El Pais, Morales, “announced that the Plurinational State will break in 2011 all records for the elimination of surplus coca leaf.” Perhaps the distinction lies in the definition of “surplus coca,” but, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2011 World Drug Report, Bolivia has eradicated more than 10,000 hectares of coca four times since 1996, including a high of 15,353 hectares in 1999.
Morales, who said more than 8,000 hectares of coca have already been eradicated this year, stressed that an agreement with the producers made the eradication possible. It is taking place, “without a single shot being fired that resulted in death or injury, unlike what occurred during the neo-liberal governments,” he said.
Morales is a former coca grower, and current head of the coca-growers’ union. His political career largely began as a leader of the "cocalero" fight against the U.S.-backed coca eradication programs. He expelled U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg in 2008 and suspended Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) activity in Bolivia in 2008. He has insisted that his country can continue to produce coca for traditional uses while fighting the production and distribution of processed cocaine.
“You can not talk about free coca cultivation, nor zero coca for tradition and culture.” Morales said Monday.
Morales said the eradication was an important act in the fight against narcotraffickers. “This contribution and this conscious, voluntary reduction has a great impact on the international community,” Morales said.
The eradication of 10,000 hectares of coca would be a new record for the Morales administration, if not for Bolivian history, and would be double the amount eradicated during his first year in office. Since Morales took office, coca cultivation has increased roughly 12 percent, from 27,500 hectares in 2006 to 30,900 in 2010.
Junior - November 7, 2011 03:22 PM (GMT)
Morales: Colombian and Mexican Traffickers Operate in Bolivia
By Elyssa Pachico, InSight.com, Monday, November 7, 2011
Bolivia President Evo Morales said Saturday that Colombian and Mexican traffickers have "interests" in "harming" Bolivia through the drug trade.
Morales' comments come just 2 weeks after a Bolivian anti-narcotics officer was killed in a shoot-out with alleged Colombian drug traffickers, reports La Razon.
The confrontation took place in Bolivia's north-central indigenous territory, known by its Spanish acronym TIPNIS. According to reports, the police unit was carrying out a routine patrol when they were ambushed by a group of Colombian traffickers, protecting a giant coca base laboratory. At least one Colombian was killed and another wounded in the attack.
The incident prompted Morales to again affirm that drug traffickers operating in Bolivia are better equipped than the national security forces. Morales has used this argument before in a plea for more international anti-drug aid to Bolivia.
Junior - December 15, 2011 04:10 PM (GMT)
Looking for Mexican Cartel Presence in Bolivia
Written by Elyssa Pachico, InSight
Thursday, December 15, 2011
A UN representative said there are no Mexican cartels present in Bolivia, raising the question of which criminal groups do handle the Andean nation’s cocaine trade.
According to testimony delivered by a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official to the US Senate in October, both Mexican and Colombian traffickers have increased their presence in Bolivia. The DEA noted that it was difficult to identify these criminal groups, partly because the agency hasn’t had any field presence in Bolivia since 2008. President Evo Morales expelled the agency and the US ambassador from the country that year, accusing them of conspiring against his administration.
On Tuesday Cesar Guedes, representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Bolivia, appeared to contradict part of the DEA’s conclusions. According to La Razon, Guedes said that drug trafficking is “managed mostly by local groups or Brazilians, Europeans, Colombians, not exactly Mexicans.” He added there was “no way of proving” the US claims.
Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera also cited the UNODC’s position when discussing the presence of Mexican cartels in Bolivia. “[Guedes] said clearly that, at the United Nations, they don’t have information or evidence of the presence of those cartels in the country,” the vice president said.
However, Guedes’ comments do not appear to be an outright denial that Mexican drug traffickers have a presence in Bolivia. Rather, the UNODC’s position looks like an extension of an argument long made by the Bolivian government: Bolivia’s cocaine trade is controlled by family clans and by foreign nationals, Mexican, Colombian and Brazilian included, even though there are no militarized, transnational criminal organizations inside the country.
The official position of Bolivia’s main anti-narcotics force, known by its acronym the FELCN, is that while there are foreign traffickers in Bolivia, none are organized or sophisticated enough to be considered a “cartel.”
The argument that there are no Mexican cartels inside Bolivia would contradict previous statements made by government officials. President Evo Morales has said that Colombian and Mexican traffickers “have an interest in harming the country” and are better armed than the Bolivian security forces. In July, the country's top drug official said that some Bolivian groups have made contact with the Zetas.
Bolivian authorities have occasionally arrested Mexicans on drug trafficking charges. But Colombian groups appear to have a much stronger hold inside the country. Colombian traffickers have shot and killed Bolivian police while defending cocaine processing labs in the remote countryside. According to FELCN statistics from 2010, police arrested over 120 Colombians on drug trafficking charges that year.
In particular, the eastern department of Santa Cruz is thought to be a hub for Colombian traffickers. According to one estimate by Colombian intelligence, there may be up to 3,000 Colombians dedicated exclusively to the drug trade in the area. In June 2011, Bolivian police arrested the cousin of one of Colombia’s most wanted paramilitary warlords in Santa Cruz. Bolivian UN representative Guedes recently called the area Bolivia's principal transit area for cocaine heading to Paraguay and Brazil, and the one most likely to see Mexico-style violence in the coming years if rival groups begin battling over control of the region.
The shifting technology inside Bolivia’s cocaine processing labs may also be a sign of greater Colombian influence. In the past five years, cocaine laboratories in Bolivia have increasingly used the more sophisticated Colombian methods for producing cocaine. Instead of using open-air maceration pits to produce coca paste, more labs have been found which follow the Colombian style. This involves using a greater quantity of precursor chemicals to process the coca leaf. This system is more efficient at extracting the cocaine alkaloid. Many of these mega-drug labs using the Colombian technology have been discovered in or around Santa Cruz.
This was among the evidence cited by the DEA to argue that foreign traffickers, including Colombians, have become more established in Bolivia. However, evidence for the allegation that Mexican groups have greater influence in the country just isn't there.
Junior - December 15, 2011 07:44 PM (GMT)
Bolivian Traffickers Improve Cocaine Manufacturing to Double Output
Written by Ronan Graham, InSight, Thursday, December 15, 2011
Changing the input chemicals used to produce cocaine could be allowing Bolivian traffickers to manufacture twice as much of the drug from the same amount of coca leaves, according to the UN.
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) representative Cesar Guedes told AFP news agency, "The production has become more sophisticated over the past three years,” saying that today, “it takes far less coca leaves to produce the same amount of cocaine.”
Chemicals like acetone, sulfuric acid and potassium permanganate are used for different phases in the process that transforms the coca leaf into cocaine. According to authorities in Bolivia, drug traffickers have now begun to use ground coca and cement in the process, bringing greater results.
Bolivia is the world’s third largest producer of cocaine, according to the UN. Under Bolivian law 12,000 hectares of land can be used to grow coca for traditional uses, like religious ceremonies or chewing the leaf. According to the 2011 United Nations World Drug Report, however, Bolivia has nearly 31,000 hectares under coca cultivation.
The ability of traffickers to produce greater quantities of cocaine from the coca leaf depending on the chemical inputs is another indication of the difficulty of putting accurate figures on drug production.
Junior - December 22, 2011 09:44 PM (GMT)
'FARC Rebels Tied to Traffickers in Bolivia'
Written by Ronan Graham, InSight
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Drug traffickers with close ties to Colombian guerrilla group the FARC are operating in Bolivia, according to the country’s anti-narcotics police force.
The head of the Special Anti-Narcotics Police (FELCN), Jose Quezada Camacho, said in a report that a drug laboratory uncovered by Bolivian security forces in October had been operated by a group of Colombian traffickers working with the FARC.
The drug lab, situated in the Isiboro Secure National Park and Indigenous Territory, in the Cochabamba province, operated on a very large scale. According to Bolivia’s defense minister, Ruben Saavedra Soto, it had a daily production capacity of over 100 kilos of high-purity cocaine, and had been in operation for at least three years.
In gunfights when taking over the lab, Bolivian security forces killed two suspects who were later revealed to be Colombian nationals Yeison David Sosa Rincon and Jose Wilmar Toro Garcia.
According to Jose Camacho Quezada, intelligence reports received from Colombia’s national police confirmed that Sosa, Toro, and other Colombian nationals who escaped from the laboratory during the fighting had established the cocaine refining laboratory, and that they were all “linked to the FARC."
The Cochabamba region is one of Bolivia’s main cocaine producing regions. As InSight Crime has previously reported, the area around Santa Cruz in eastern Bolivia has recently emerged as a major drug trafficking hub, forming part of a “drug highway” connecting Cochabamba to West Africa and Europe.
Junior - January 21, 2012 08:52 AM (GMT)
Bolivia signs anti-drug deal with US and Brazil
BBC News, January 21, 2012
Bolivia has signed an agreement with the US and Brazil to help reduce the production of illegal cocaine.
The US and Brazil will provide technical assistance, including satellite monitoring of coca crops.
The agreement comes more than three years after Bolivia expelled the US Drug Enforcement Administration, accusing it of political interference.
Bolivia is the world's third biggest cocaine producer, and the main supplier to Brazil.
The deal was signed after months of negotiations and repeated delays as Bolivia sought changes to the document.
Bolivian Interior Minister Wilfredo Chavez said Bolivia had insisted on respect for its sovereignty as well as for the traditional consumption of coca leaf, which is used for medicinal and ritual purposes.
A senior official at the US embassy in La Paz, John Creamer, said the deal was "a very important step in the fight against drug trafficking," the news agency Efe reported.
"The project is aimed at improving the technical capacity of Bolivia to monitor excessive coca cultivation and promoting scientific and technical cooperation," he added.
Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the US ambassador in 2008, accusing them of plotting against him - a charge the US has always rejected.
His government says it has continued efforts to eradicate illegal coca crops and stop cocaine manufacture and smuggling despite limited resources.
It has also stepped up its defence of the traditional use of coca, which has been a vital element of indigenous Andean culture for many centuries.
President Morales is himself a former coca grower and is still head of the main coca growers' federation.
Last November the US and Bolivia agreed to restore diplomatic ties and resume anti-drug cooperation.
In March last year Brazil agreed to help train and equip Bolivian security forces for the fight against drugs, and also stepped up border controls.
Junior - February 6, 2012 04:56 PM (GMT)
Bolivia Falls Behind on 2012 Coca Eradication Target
Written by Edward Fox, InSight.com
Monday, February 6, 2012
Bolivia's government announced that it eradicated just 144 hectares of coca in January, leaving it far off-target on its aim to remove all 10,000 hectares of illicit coca crops in 2012.
The statistics, released by the vice minister of social defense, showed that the majority of coca eradication occurred in the department of Cochabamba, where 119.9 hectares were removed.
InSight Crime Analysis
The news that only 144 hectares of coca were eliminated will be an embarrassment for Evo Morales' administration, given its statement last month that it plans to remove 10,000 hectares of illicit coca crops in 2012. If successful, this would bring the total crop in the country down to around the legal level of 20,000 hectares.
One of the reasons behind the low eradication rate, according to La Razon, could be resistance encountered by Bolivia's Joint Task Force (FTC), which was ejected from a coca growing area by 400 farmers on January 9.
The US Anti-Narcotics Office in Bolivia has reduced the funds it provides to the government down to $10 million this year, down from the $15 million provided in 2011, potentially hindering eradication work. However, Morales has promised his armed forces that the government will cover this loss, ensuring that their anti-drug efforts will not be underfunded.
Junior - February 14, 2012 04:18 PM (GMT)
Bolivia: 85% Crime Unreported in Cities
By Christopher Looft, InSight.com
Monday, February 13, 2012
A study showed that 85 percent of the population of four large cities in Bolivia do not report crimes to the police due to a lack of confidence in the force, according to the government.
According to La Razon, Vice-Minister of Citizen Security Miguel Vasquez said that the figure applied to the inhabitants of La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.
Vasquez went on to note that distrust of the police has caused some citizens to resort to vigilantism or "community justice."
InSight Crime Analysis
Bolivia's police force has faced accusations of corruption at the highest levels, with claims that former police chief General Oscar Nina had dealings with drug traffickers, allegedly protecting Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
In recent months, soldiers have been deployed to support police operations in certain areas of the country hit by high levels of crime, which is constitutionally allowed when the police's capacity to act has been "surpassed."
In certain parts of the country civilians have banded together to fight crime, in some cases targeting police accused of corruption and abuse. As a report by the Economist noted, the lynching of suspects is not uncommon in El Alto, which borders capital La Paz, where residents hang scarecrows from makeshift scaffolds to warn away potential criminals.
Junior - February 21, 2012 12:14 AM (GMT)
Bolivian Official: 70 Percent of Crime Linked to Drug Trafficking
Written by Geoffrey Ramsey, InSight.com
Monday, February 20, 2012
A Bolivian anti-drug official has claimed that 70 percent of crimes registered in the country are tied to drug trafficking, a claim that seems difficult to support.
Speaking at the end of a civil society conference on insecurity in Bolivia last week, Deputy Minister for Social Defense Felipe Caceres claimed that 70 percent of all crimes in the country are related to drug trade. He specifically highlighted the departments of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, which are the three most populous provinces in the country.
Insight Crime Analysis
Attempts to quantify the percentage of crime in the country that is strictly due to drug trafficking are difficult, as it is not easy to clearly identify a case with drugs. Is a carjacking committed by someone who also sells small quantities of marijuana, for instance, a crime linked to drug trafficking? Caceres did not apparently describe the methodology behind the claim, casting further doubt on the statistic.
Last month the US signed a long-awaited deal with the Bolivian government over coca monitoring, potentially putting the Bolivian government under increased pressure to portray itself taking a tough stance against drug traffickers. When combined with recent reports suggesting that 85 percent of crime in the country’s cities goes unreported, this figure does not bode well for the Bolivian government’s efforts to put its counter narcotics activites in the best light. The US government has claimed that the country has not done enough to combat the drug trade, while the Bolivian government has repeatedly said that it is doing its best to dissuade drug traffickers in the country while allowing a limited amount of legal coca cultivation.
Junior - March 14, 2012 11:40 PM (GMT)
Bolivia Opts Not to Destroy Coca as Morales Defends Drug Policy
Written by Geoffrey Ramsey, InSight.com
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
As President Evo Morales defended the traditional use of coca leaves on the international stage, Bolivia is putting seized coca to legal uses instead of destroying it.
Speaking at the 55th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna on Monday, President Morales continued his campaign to raise global awareness of coca chewing as a traditional practice.
Holding up a coca leaf to illustrate his point, the Bolivian leader called on the international communities to correct the “historical error” of including coca in the list of illegal narcotics in the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. "The producers of coca leaves are not the drug mafia,” said Morales. “The consumers of coca leaves are not drug addicts. Coca leaves in their raw state are not cocaine."
Bolivia withdrew from the 1961 Convention in December in accordance with the Morales administration’s “Coca Yes, Cocaine No” approach to combating drug trafficking in the country. They subsequently announced they were seeking re-entry into the Convention, albeit with a reservation recognizing licit coca use.
In another sign of the country’s unorthodox drug policy, Bolivian Deputy Minister of Coca Dionisio Nunez announced this week that the government would re-use two million pounds of illegally-produced coca instead of burning it as is customary. The minister told reporters that the coca, which had been seized in various anti-narcotics operations in recent months, will be used for compost and other industrial purposes.
Nunez also said that the government reached an agreement with a local university to turn 10,000 pounds of the leaf over for a series of studies on its nutritional and medical properties.
InSight Crime Analysis
Morales’ international campaign has been met with strong opposition from US and UN officials alike. In a press conference following the meeting, UN Office on Drugs and Crime head Yury Fedotov again raised concerns over Bolivia’s efforts to remove coca from the list, saying it could undermine international anti-narcotics norms by creating a "domino effect.”
Although the Morales government has announced its intent to rejoin the 1961 Convention, they will have to wait a year before they can be readmitted. This period will be used by signatory nations to decide whether they will accept Bolivia’s qualified re-entry. If one-third of the total 183 voice formal opposition to it, Bolivia will not be allowed to rejoin under its proposed conditions.
The likelihood of this happening is unclear. While the US has said it will not campaign against Bolivia’s readmission, it has not disavowed any plans to vote against it. If the US does cast its vote against Bolivia, this will no doubt encourage other signatory nations to do the same.
Junior - March 21, 2012 07:30 AM (GMT)
Bolivia Plans to Monitor Foreign Nationals to Combat Crime
Written by Christopher Looft, InSight.com
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Bolivia’s government has announced plans to set up a bilateral intelligence sharing center with Colombia, to help combat drug trafficking and monitor Colombian nationals who pass through the country.
Government Minister Carlos Romero said that on a recent trip to Colombia, Bolivia's president Evo Morales and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos had agreed to set up a joint intelligence center to monitor migrant flows and combat drug trafficking.
Romero noted that Bolivia's geography, as a landlocked country in the center of the continent, made it difficult to monitor the entry of foreign nationals. He said that the government wanted to exchange information with Colombia, Mexico and Peru on the criminal records of their nationals who pass through Bolivia, and to monitor their activity in the country.
In addition to sharing intelligence, the two presidents agreed Colombia would send a delegation to advise Bolivian authorities on security issues.
InSight Crime Analysis
The drug trade in Bolivia, which is the third biggest cocaine producer in the world, is controlled mostly by foreign groups, while Bolivian traffickers have a relatively low profile.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said last year that Colombian and Mexican cartels were increasing their presence in the country. However, a representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Bolivia responded by saying that the trade was handled by "local groups or Brazilians, Europeans, Colombians, not exactly Mexicans.”
There is thought to be a particularly big presence of Colombian traffickers in the province of Santa Cruz, to the east of the country. Some Colombian groups operating in Cochabamba province are reported to have ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Bolivia arrested 84 Colombians accused of drug trafficking last year, according to El Espectador.
The announcement of the plans to share information with Colombia follow reports that Peru and Bolivia would form a binational police force to secure their shared border.
Junior - March 28, 2012 09:19 PM (GMT)
US-Bolivia Gun Spat Points to Drug War Tensions
Written by Geoffrey Ramsey, InSight
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
The discovery of an American diplomatic vehicle transporting weapons and ammunition in Bolivia has added yet another layer of tension to relations between the governments of Bolivia and the United States.
On March 27, Bolivian police intercepted a van with diplomatic license plates carrying three shotguns, a revolver and more than 2,300 rounds of ammunition in the Amazonian province of Beni. The van’s driver and a police officer escorting him, both Bolivian citizens, were taken into custody for questioning. According to Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero, the incident amounts to a “security threat to Bolivia, an act that calls into question the [US government’s] respect for the institution and laws of the Bolivian state.” He called for a full investigation into the matter.
The US embassy in La Paz, for its part, denies any wrongdoing. In a statement released yesterday, the embassy claims that the weapons were being relocated from a closed office in the city of Trinidad to Santa Cruz under an agreement with local police. The statement added that it is customary for Washington to contract local police in order to protect its diplomats overseas, and stressed that embassy officials are happy to comply with an investigation.
The statement failed to placate Bolivian officials, however. Although Romero has conceded that the US had negotiated an agreement with the police in Beni, he called the arrangement “illegal,” noting that foreign governments are only authorized to negotiate agreements with federal institutions. Romero also questioned why the van was traveling at night, and implied that a diplomatic vehicle was used to reduce the chance of it being searched.
InSight Crime Analysis
The incident comes at a time of extremely strained relations between Bolivia and the US. Although President Evo Morales has restored diplomatic ties with the US after expelling the US ambassador and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for alleged connections to his political opposition, he remains suspicious of US activities in his country.
Ahead of a visit to the US last July, for instance, Morales publicly expressed fears that the American government would attempt to plant cocaine on his plane in an effort to discredit his counternarcotics efforts.
Because the Beni department is governed by the opposition National Revolutionary Movement (MNR), the government’s reaction to the discovery of weapons has distinctly political undertones. While the Bolivian government’s concerns over sovereignty are valid, it seems likely that Minister Romero’s musings were designed to raise doubts about a potentially destabilizing relationship between the US and the local authorities in Beni.
Junior - June 2, 2012 08:10 PM (GMT)
Over 90 Cocaine Processing Labs Found In Eastern Bolivia
Written by Edward Fox, InSight, Friday, June 1, 2012
Bolivian authorities dismantled 91 cocaine laboratories in the eastern department of Santa Cruz, a key hub for drug trafficking activity in Bolivia.
In the operation, which began on May 30 in the village of San German, members of Bolivia's anti-narcotics police unit (FELCN) discovered 91 laboratories hidden in some the the village's homes, reported EFE news agency.
Police arrested 20 people in San German and also destroyed a clandestine airstrip they say was used to send some 300 kilograms of cocaine every 20 days to Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. According to the FELCN's director, Colonel Gonzalo Quezada, the police are searching for a Colombian man they believe oversaw trafficking operations in the area.
Some of the processing labs had the capacity to produce up to 100 kilograms of cocaine per day, reported El Diario.
InSight Crime Analysis
The fact that all the processing labs were located in Santa Cruz state is not surprising. The state has become a key operations base for drug traffickers, with some suggesting that as many as 3,000 Colombian traffickers may have a presence there. On top of this, there is evidence to suggest that Brazilian groups such as the Red Command (Comando Vermelho) and the First Capital Command (PCC) also have a hand in trafficking operations there.
The importance of Santa Cruz may be largely based on its location. The department borders Cochabamba, one of the largest producers of the coca leaf and Brazil, the highest consumer of cocaine in Latin America. A Brazilian Embassy official in Bolivia estimated in December that Brazil receives as much as 80 percent of the cocaine produced in Bolivia.
In recent years, drug lab technology in Bolivia has progressed substantially, moving from open air maceration pits to a more sophisticated process frequently seen in Colombia involving more precursor chemicals to process the coca leaf, making the extraction of the cocaine alkaloid more efficient. One such lab was destroyed in Santa Cruz in August last year in what police said was the biggest find of the year.
Junior - June 20, 2012 05:55 PM (GMT)
Bolivia Seizes Largest Ever Shipment of Contraband Cigarettes
Written by Michael Kane, InSight, Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Bolivia has made its largest ever seizure of illegal cigarettes, smuggled into the country from Paraguay. However, the confiscation is a small victory in the two countries' struggle to combat their roles as centers for the regional contraband trade.
Bolivia's military and Customs Department seized 1,046 crates of Paraguayan cigarettes, valued at $100,102, from a truck on the Santa Cruz-Villamontes highway, which is directly connected with the Paraguay border.
The driver of the truck and an accomplice were arrested and are under investigation. It is presumed they were intending to travel to Peru. Ardaya noted that because the contraband is worth more than $100,000, it is classed as a more serious crime, and that those responsible will be criminally prosecuted.
InSight Crime Analysis
The success of the two operations, dubbed “Cuevo XX” and “Los Puchos,” belie the larger problems both Paraguay and Bolivia face in terms of contraband. Neither country has succeeded in stemming the massive amounts of goods illegally flowing across their borders, due to ineptitude, corruption, and a lack of resources in their law enforcement agencies.
In October 2011, Chilean officials indicated that of the 140 illegal overland routes that cross its three borders, 106 were on the Bolivian border. Corruption within the border patrol in Bolivia has reached such a high level that Ardaya recently announced a plan for every official to carry pens with hidden micro-cameras and voice recorders that will remain on during working hours, recording their every move, in the hopes of discouraging collusion with smugglers. Bolivia's Economy Ministry estimates that the country loses between $300 million and $400 million due to smuggling each year.
Paraguay has grappled with similar issues. In September 2011, Paraguayan marines allegedly fired on Brazilian federal police as the latter were intercepting boats carrying smuggled cigarettes across the border. Just a month later, Brazil militarized the border in an aggressive action aimed at curbing the influx of smuggled goods, including guns, from Paraguay. If the allegations are true, they would indicate collusion with traffickers at the highest level of the Paraguayan security forces.
The two countries have also been unable to control their shared border. Despite Paraguay’s deployment of combat jets last April to patrol the airspace on the border and intercept illegal drug flights, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported in November that smugglers still often used Bolivia-Paraguay air routes to move contraband.
Junior - June 22, 2012 12:35 AM (GMT)
Iran to Train Bolivia Police in Drug Ops
Written by Tracey Knott, InSight
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Iran will provide training and equipment to Bolivia’s anti-drug task force, demonstrating Bolivia’s determination to look beyond the United States for allies in its fight against drug trafficking.
On June 20, President Evo Morales of Bolivia and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad signed a bilateral agreement to strengthen the Andean country’s fight against drugs, during the Iranian leader's South America visit. The pact is geared at decreasing the production, distribution, trafficking and abuse of drugs in Bolivia, explained Bolivia’s El Diario.
According to drug czar Felipe Caceres, cited in El Nuevo Herald, the agreement specified that the Iranian military will train 10 anti-narcotics officers in intelligence and planning operations. Iran will also provide communications equipment for Bolivia’s anti-drug task force.
It is not yet clear when or where the training will take place.
InSight Crime Analysis
In the past, the United States had been heavily involved in anti-drug efforts in Bolivia. However, in 2008, Morales expelled representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), accusing them of supporting opposition leaders against the Morales administration. Diplomatic relations with the US were only re-established in 2011.
Bolivia has turned to nations other than the US to support its fight against drug trafficking. In January 2012, Bolivia made a coca monitoring deal with the US and Brazil, relying on the US for equipment and training while turning to its South American neighbor for satellite imagery and analysis. According to the Miami Herald, Brazil has also provided Bolivia with reconnaissance drones to locate cocaine processing labs.
This agreement between Bolivia and Iran is yet another indicator that Bolivia is seeking new allies in its counternarcotics operations. Bolivia established diplomatic relations with Iran in 2006, and this is the third time Ahmadinejad has visited the South American country since then.
Iran has built closer ties to several Latin American countries in recent years, particularly Venezuela, a close Bolivian ally. On June 18, El Nuevo Herald reported that Iran had been providing Venezuela with drones. There is also a fear, so far with little evidence to support it, that Iran has been funding Hezbollah operations in Latin America.
Junior - June 25, 2012 08:17 PM (GMT)
Bolivia Claims Police Riots Are Conspiracy, Ignoring Corruption Issue
Written by Michael Kane, InSight.com, Monday, June 25, 2012
The Bolivian government has claimed that police protests over salaries are aimed at fomenting political unrest, ignoring the larger issue that better paid officers are less likely to be corrupted by organized crime.
On Sunday morning at 5 a.m., the government and representatives of national police body Anssclapol signed a deal after eight hours of negotiations. At the center of the police’s demands is higher pay -- on average, a member of the force makes $194 a month, compared to $300 a month for army sergeants. The agreement gave them an extra 220 bolivianos ($30), a little higher than the offer of 200 bolivianos they rejected last week
Police officers in eight cities across the country have ignored the agreement and continued protests, defying the order of police commander Victor Santos Maldonado. Demonstrators were seen burning copies of the agreement, and the protesters have increased the number of demands from four to 21.
The government of Evo Morales has accused political opponents of using the protests to foment a coup. Interior Minister Carlos Romero claimed that the protesters received a message to “clean out” the current government. The intelligence services warned of a plan to force members of the police to reject the agreement, in the hopes that the police movement would unite with indigenous groups protesting against the construction of a road through their Amazonian homeland.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Morales administration's attempts to link the protests to a supposed conspiracy against the government ignore the larger, institutional issues facing Bolivia’s police.
In early 2011, the country’s former top anti-drug official was arrested in Panama and extradited to the United States on charges of drug trafficking. Other members of Bolivia’s Special Force Against Narcotics have also been accused of being involved in the scheme. The head of the national police was fired in the fallout, while his two successors also fell amid corruption allegations The new police chief is the seventh in the past six years.
Despite attempts to purge the force, such scandals have undermined the police’s credibility. A recent report indicated that 85 percent of crime in cities goes unreported, likely due to a lack of faith in the local police. Vigilante justice, including lynchings of suspected criminals by ordinary citizens, has taken hold throughout the country.
Increased pay for these striking police officers could help alleviate corruption. As Bolivia plays an increasing role in the transcontinental drug trade, public confidence in the police is important for combating organized crime.
Junior - July 9, 2012 02:00 PM (GMT)
Bolivia's Evo Morales re-elected coca growers' leader
BBC News, July 9, 2012
Bolivian President Evo Morales has been re-elected head of Bolivia's coca growers union, a post he has held since 1996.
Mr Morales urged growers meeting in the central city of Cochabamba to work for better control of coca leaf production.
This would help silence accusations that coca growers are involved in drug trafficking, Mr Morales said.
He has long campaigned for a UN ban to be lifted on coca chewing, saying it is part of Bolivia's heritage.
Coca leaves, the raw ingredient for cocaine, were declared an illegal substance under a 1961 UN convention.
Mr Morales thanked coca growers' representatives for choosing him as leader once again.
He urged them to abide by decisions taken by the union's committees:
maintain a small plot of some 40 sq m per family for domestic cultivation of coca
do not allow coca growing inside national parks or protected areas
do not allow production beyond areas reserved for traditional cultivation
"There cannot be zero coca, but nor can there be unregulated
cultivation of coca. You know, brothers, that a portion is diverted into drug-trafficking," Mr Morales said.
Bolivia is the world's third biggest producer of cocaine, after Colombia and Peru.
Coca has been used in the Andes for thousands of years as a mild stimulant and sacred herbal medicine.
Junior - July 11, 2012 06:45 PM (GMT)
Report Accuses Bolivian Minister of Ties to Brazilian Traffickers
Written by Edward Fox, InSight, Wednesday, July 11, 2012
A high-ranking Bolivian government minister is suspected of ties to a top Brazilian drug trafficker, according to a Bolivian intelligence report allegedly seen by Veja news magazine.
Brazilian magazine Veja has published a report (see InterAmerican Security Watch's translation) claiming to have obtained Bolivian intelligence documents linking the country's presidency minister, Juan Ramon Quintana, with Brazilian drug lord Maximiliano Dorado Munhoz Filho. Munhoz is accused of shipping up to 500 kilos per month of Bolivian cocaine to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.
The documents were reportedly leaked by a member of President Evo Morales' party, Movement Towards Socialism (MAS).
According to Veja, the documents say that on November 18, 2010, Bolivian police witnessed Quintana and former Miss Bolivia Jessica Jordan enter Dorado's house in the city of Santa Cruz, and leave 20 minutes later carrying briefcases. At the time of the meeting, Quintana was director of the Agency for Development, and Jordan was regional director of development for Beni state in the northeast.
In January the following year, Bolivian police arrested Dorado and handed him over to Brazilian authorities.
Even police officials sympathetic to Morales have become disillusioned with the president's failure to combat collusion between officials and drug traffickers, according to Veja, which claims that the president has persecuted those who criticize the government's narco-ties. Opposition Senator Roger Pinto presented the report documenting Quintana's meeting with Dorado to Morales in March 2011, says the report, only to be accused of corruption himself. Pinto has been granted political asylum and is currently holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in La Paz.
InSight Crime Analysis
This is not the first accusation of drug trafficking ties high in the Bolivian government. In September last year, Univision reported that it had seen a Bolivian intelligence report that tied 40 officials to a drug trafficking network run by the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel. Pinto was accused of having leaked the document, which he denied. In May this year, the country's former drug czar, recently jailed in the US for drug trafficking, stated that Morales was actively hindering investigations into officials' ties to the drug trade.
However, many of the accusations have been highly politicized in nature, particularly those of Pinto. Neither Univision nor Veja have published the intelligence documents they claim to have seen.
Junior - July 16, 2012 06:55 PM (GMT)
Bolivia Becomes Better Cocaine Producer, US Says
Fox News Latino, July 16, 2012
The U.S. government confirmed that Bolivia has fewer coca plantations but it is producing more cocaine because drug traffickers are using a more "efficient" process known as the "Colombian method," according to an interview published Sunday in the daily Pagina Siete.
"That is the paradox in Bolivia. There are fewer coca plantations in the past three years, but there's more production of cocaine," said the outgoing chief of the U.S. diplomatic mission in La Paz, charge d'affaires John Creamer, whose new post will be U.S. consul in Rio de Janeiro.
Creamer assumed leadership of the diplomatic legation in 2008 when Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled then-Ambassador Philip Goldberg, claiming that the envoy was conspiring against him.
The charge d'affaires emphasized that authorities destroyed coca cultivation - which is the basis for cocaine production - in 2009, 2010 and particularly in 2011, but at the same time, he said, drug traffickers have been found to be producing more cocaine using the Colombian method.
"They ... can obtain more cocaine with lesser quantities of coca leaves," Creamer said, emphasizing that Bolivia's challenge consists of maintaining its efforts to eradicate coca plantations and improving its ability to attack drug traffickers.
He also pointed to the problem of "resowing" coca plantations, which is preventing the government from achieving a definitive victory in this area.
Since Morales came to power in 2006, coca cultivation in Bolivia has increased from 25,400 hectares to 31,000 hectares (63,500 acres to 77,500 acres), according to the latest U.N. figures, which are from 2010.
Bolivia's anti-drug law allows the legal cultivation of just 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of coca for traditional purposes.
Creamer also said that the United States will not support the new reservation in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs proposed by Bolivia to the U.N. supporting "the chewing of coca leaf" because Washington believes that it places the integrity of the international anti-drug treaty in jeopardy.
Bolivia last year denounced and withdrew from the treaty but then it requested that it be modified to include the chewing of coca leaf, a request that may only be rejected if a third (63) of the 191 U.N. signatories agree.
Creamer acknowledged that he feels it will be "difficult" for that number of countries to oppose the return of Bolivia as a member of the treaty.
He also said that the anti-drug division at the U.S. Embassy will not leave Bolivia as La Paz has been saying but it will reduce its cooperation with local authorities given the decision by the government to "nationalize" the anti-drug fight.
Ninety-five percent of the cocaine seized in the United States comes from Colombia and less than 1 percent from Bolivia, which - nevertheless - supplies 60 percent of the Brazilian market, according to figures cited by Creamer.