Bolivia Steps Up Fight Against Drugs in Amazon

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Bolivia’s anti-drug task force has increased security operations to combat the growing presence of drug trafficking groups in the Amazon, a neglected but hugely strategic area for organized crime, not only in Bolivia, but also Peru, Brazil and Colombia. 

At a press conference on October 14, the head of Bolivia’s Anti-Drug Trafficking Task Force (FELCN), Mario Centellas, revealed that security forces have intensified interdiction efforts in the Amazon region, destroying laboratories and seizing airplanes used to transport drugs, reported El Diario. He told reporters that the region’s topography and lack of accessibility have facilitated drug trafficking and production.  

As an example, Centellas cited a FELCN operation on October 12 that resulted in the seizure of a drug plane and 102 kilos of cocaine in the department of Beni, which is part of Bolivia’s Amazon basin. Four individuals were arrested during the operation, including one Brazilian, one Peruvian, and one Paraguayan.

The cocaine seized in the operation had been imported from Peru and was apparently due to be transported to Paraguay, Brazil, and Europe, reported La Prensa.

InSight Crime Analysis

FELCN’s increased focus on the Amazon echoes similar security measures in other countries that have seen a growing organized crime threat in the Amazon region. In September, Peru declared a state of emergency in two Amazon districts to combat the rising level of drug trafficking in the jungle region. Later that month, the presidents of Colombia and Peru signed an agreement to strengthen security efforts in the Amazon to fight drug trafficking and illegal mining along their shared frontier. Brazil has also previously deployed large numbers of troops to the Amazon in order to crack down on criminal activity.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Bolivia

The recent seizure in Beni highlights Bolivia’s role as a drug transit hub in South America’s emerging drug trafficking dynamic. As reported in InSight Crime’s special series on Bolivian drug trafficking, increased security efforts in Colombia have pushed criminal organizations to migrate their operations to Bolivia, which lacks radars and other resources needed for interdiction. Field research conducted by InSight Crime revealed that large quantities of coca base are transported from Peru to Bolivia, where the substance is processed in cocaine laboratories run by Colombian drug trafficking groups before being shipped to Brazil — home to the world’s second largest consumer drug market

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