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
  • 10
Prev Next

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...