Arrest of Bolivia’s Ex-Police Chief Shows Extent of Corruption

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Authorities in Bolivia have arrested the country’s former chief of police, highlighting the widespread corruption that has facilitated Bolivia’s emergence as a regional drug trafficking hub.

General Oscar Nina, his wife, daughter, and son have been accused of illegal enrichment and are suspected of collaboration with drug traffickers, reported the BBC.

Bolivia’s Minister for Governance Hugo Moldiz told media that authorities had had “grave suspicions for many years” that Nina has ties to the drug trade, reported Opinion.

Nina was appointed head of Bolivia’s anti-narcotics police (FELCN) in January 2009, and was tasked with restructuring the force after President Evo Morales kicked out the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in 2008.

He later went on to become chief of the police in 2010, but was sacked in 2011 shortly after another former head of Bolivia’s anti-narcotics police, Rene Sanabria, was arrested in Panama and flown to the United States to face drug trafficking charges.

Nina and his son have been sent to prison on remand, while his wife and daughter were released on bail, reported La Razon.

On the same day as their hearing, Nina’s former charges in the FELCN seized close to a ton of cocaine that was to be sent from Bolivia to the West African country of Burkina Faso via a Chilean port. One Bolivian and two Ecuadorians were arrested in the raid, reported La Razon.

InSight Crime Analysis

As InSight Crime revealed in a special investigation last year, Bolivia is taking on an increasingly important role in the regional drug trade, not only as a cocaine producer, but also as a transit country and a base for transnational criminal actors from countries such as Colombia and Brazil.

SEE ALSO: Evo’s Challenge: Bolivia the Drug Hub

Corruption — especially in the judiciary and the police force — is one of the key reasons for Bolivia’s growing role in the drug trade. A deputy in the legislative assembly told InSight Crime last year that corrupt elements of the police were working with Colombian drug traffickers in the city of Santa Cruz, while a lawyer stated that defendants could bribe their way out of a conviction.  

Until the arrest of Nina, Rene Sanabria had been the most high-profile face of this corruption after a US court sentenced him to 15 years in prison for drug trafficking. While Nina’s arrest shows that this corruption certainly did not stop with Sanabria’s network, at least it also shows that Bolivian authorities are taking steps to address the problem, as opposed to the case of Sanabria, whose arrest was engineered by US agencies.

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