As Bolivia, Peru Target Air Routes, Traffickers Turn to Lakes, Rivers

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Authorities in Bolivia have identified three trafficking routes used to transport drugs from Peru to Brazil by land and water, indicating traffickers are not wholly reliant on the aerial route currently the subject of a security forces crackdown.

On May 8 the commanding general of the Bolivian Navy, Gonzalo Alcon, identified three widely used routes for smuggling cocaine from Peru, reported La Razon. According to the general, smugglers principally use the Lake Titicaca area on the border, Guaqui, a port on the lake, and Laja, a nearby town situated at the juncture of two highways (see map below). In addition to bringing drugs across the border, traffickers use the same routes to smuggle Bolivian fuel into Peru.

Bolivian authorities also identified the eastern and southern regions of the country, which share rivers with Argentina and Brazil, as areas with high levels of trafficking. In an effort to target river routes, the Bolivian navy has sent special units to patrol the country’s rivers.  Between January 1 and April 28 of this year, these units confiscated close to $1.2 million dollars in cocaine paste and materials used to manufacture drugs.    

In another recent security operation, on May 7, 783 kilos of cocaine were confiscated in the city of Santa Cruz in eastern Bolivia. The director of the nation’s anti-drug force, FELCN, said the cocaine came from Peru and was on its way to the Brazilian border.   

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InSight Crime Analysis

In addition to producing coca and cocaine, Bolivia serves as a transit nation for Peruvian and Colombian narcotics. The most common route is via a drug trafficking “air bridge,” in which planes take off from Peru laden with cocaine and cocaine paste, which is trafficked to Bolivia and onwards to Brazil. 

The air bridge has been the focus of a recent crackdown by Peruvian security forces, while in April Bolivia passed a law allowing security forces to shoot down planes unresponsive to radio that are suspected of carrying drugs. While there remain doubts over both countries’ ability to shut down the air bridge, the recently identified trafficking routes near Lake Titicaca and drug seizures on the country’s rivers indicate that even if they are successful, smugglers have a variety of other routes at their disposal. 

       SEE ALSO:  Bolivia News and Profiles

General Alcon’s allegations that drug smuggling routes between Peru and Bolivia are also being used to transport fuel is unsurprising since the same logistical routes are often used for drugs and contraband. Since the Bolivian government subsidizes fuel, it is considerably cheaper in there than in neighboring countries, where it can cost two to three times more.   

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