Bolivia's increasing cocaine production is fueling crime

The United States has criticized Bolivia's failure to cooperate fully on anti-narcotics efforts, while the country's second city, Santa Cruz, declared a state of emergency due to a rising crime wave.

In its recently-released 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, the US State Department said Bolivia had "failed demonstrably" for the fifth consecutive year in 2012 to meet obligations under international counternarcotics agreements, due to its inability to stem cocaine production and insufficient law enforcement efforts.

Although Bolivia's eradication program was exceeding its stated targets, "eradication and interdiction results were not sufficient to reverse increased potential cocaine production levels" resulting from a more efficient cocaine-making process, said the report. Meanwhile law enforcement's ability to "identify, investigate and dismantle drug trafficking organizations" remained weakened following the expulsion of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials in 2008.

In Santa Cruz, governor Ruben Costas declared "we are in an emergency," reported newspaper Los Tiempos, following a meeting to discuss the rising crime wave in the city. Various children have been kidnapped in recent months, with the suspected involvement of organized crime. Costas announced checkpoints would be installed in schools, while $14 million would be spent building six new police stations and adding 200 volunteers to the Civilian Police Support Group.

"We will not waver in our fight against organized crime, to banish foreign criminals from Bolivia who, in complicity with compatriots, are causing anxiety, especially in Santa Cruz," national police commander Alberto Aracena told news ageny ABI last month.

InSight Crime Analysis

Bolivia's anti-narcotics operations have been a highly politicized issue following the 2005 election of President Evo Morales, a leftist and former head of a coca growers union, and the expulsion of the DEA and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg in 2008, amid accusations of spying. An information war has been a major part of that, with consistently conflicting narratives on Bolivia's success or failures fighting drug trafficking. Bolivia has been on the US's blacklist of non-cooperative countries for five years, while the Bolivian government claims to have made great strides in seizures and eradication.

The issue of the presence of international criminal groups has also been a matter for debate. According to the US, there are Colombian, Brazilian, Peruvian and other foreign nationals producing and trafficking drugs in the country, as well as laundering money, but Bolivia denies the presence of international cartels  - though admits cartel "emissaries" are operating.

However there is increasing acknowledgement of the growing problem of drug trafficking by the Bolivian government, especially in Santa Cruz, which has emerged as a hot-spot for criminal activity. The government announced it would investigate links between corrupt officials and foreign criminal organizations in Santa Cruz last August, and a few months later announced it would create a permanent base in the city for the anti-narcotics police. This new investment in security is a further indication there are real grounds for concerns over international criminal activity, rather than the issue simply being fodder for US political posturing.

 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.