Bolivia has become the latest Latin American country to approve a law allowing planes suspected of carrying drugs to be shot down, yet questions remain over the country’s ability to implement such a law.
On April 22, Bolivian President Evo Morales signed the “Law of Security and Defense of the Bolivian Airspace,” reported La Razon. Morales said the law would “fundamentally allow us to confront drug trafficking,” noting that many planes operate in the east of the country without permission.
Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra explained the law establishes and regulates the actions, procedures, and controls for guarding and defending Bolivia’s air space, as well as authorizing the shooting down of unauthorized or non-compliant aircraft.
According to El Tribuno Jujuy, Morales also spoke of the need to continue equipping the armed forces and police with modern equipment and technology, saying Bolivia needs radars to detect clandestine flights. To this end, Morales said, “We are in talks with countries that can transfer or sell us this technology.”
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Bolivian lawmakers have been discussing the enactment of a shoot down law since 2011, and its approval makes Bolivia the latest country in the region to institute some form of an air defense law to combat drug trafficking.
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In 2013, Venezuela approved the use of force against suspected drug smuggling aircraft, and earlier this year Honduras passed a “Law of Aerial Exclusion.” According to El Tribuno Jujuy, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay all also have some form of legislation permitting the interdiction of suspicious aircraft.
The US has consistently been against such legislation after Peruvian security forces killed two US citizens in 2001 after mistakenly downing their plane, and recently ended intelligence sharing with Honduras in response to the passing of its new law. Yet US opposition will matter little to Bolivia, as anti-narcotics relations with the United States have been greatly reduced in recent years, beginning with the DEA’s expulsion from the country in 2008 and concluding with the announcement in 2013 the US anti-narcotics office would shut down.
While Bolivia has turned to the EU and countries such as Iran and Venezuela to replace US counter-drug cooperation, major questions remain as to Bolivia’s ability to actually implement and enforce a shoot down law given its lack of resources like radar and air-defense systems.