US official William Brownfield

A top government official announced on May 23 that the US anti-narcotics office in Bolivia will shut down, a clear sign that the US intends to significantly scale back anti-drug aid in the Andean nation. 

William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), said that after 30 years, it was time the INL to go and that he believes no further funds for the Bolivia office would be requested for fiscal year 2015, which begins in October 2014.

"I am proud of what the INL section has accomplished," Brownfield said. "It is my intent to close down our section in a reasonable and orderly fashion." Brownfield made the remarks during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs' subcommittee hearing, focused mainly on the effects of the Merida Initiative.

The announcement comes three weeks after President Evo Morales decided to eject USAID from Bolivia for what he deemed political interference, something that the US denies.  

InSight Crime Analysis

The US anti-narcotics office in Bolivia has steadily been reducing funding for some time now, providing just $10 million in 2012, down from $15 million in 2011. The US view that Bolivia is not doing enough to combat drug trafficking has contributed to significant tension between the two countries. For five consecutive years, the US State Department's International Narcotics Control Strategy Report has described Bolivia as failing to sufficiently curb cocaine and coca production. Relations between the two countries have been rocky since Morales' expulsion of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in 2008.

Despite these tensions, the US has continued to provide some measure of support to Bolivia. Just last month, the US donated 12 aircraft to the Bolivian Air Force, meant to be used in anti-drug operations. The aircraft donation was arguably intended as a gesture of goodwill, but it will likely be short-lived after Morales' expulsion of USAID earlier this month, and now Brownfield's announcement.

Bolivia remains one of the three largest cocaine-producing countries in the world and some cities, like Santa Cruz, continue to struggle with a rising wave of insecurity brought about by organized criminal groups. 

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

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: 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...

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.

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...

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...

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: 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...

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 '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.