Bolivian Police Blame Santa Cruz Crime on Drug Disputes

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Police have said that the increasing presence of organized crime, driven by migration from neighboring countries, is behind a recent spate of armed robberies in the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia.

Three armed robberies took place last weekend in the city, including the murder of a security guard and the theft of more than $15,000 from a private residence.

Jorge Toro, director of the national police’s anti-crime unit, said that the crimes seemed to be part of “score-settling” related to drug trafficking, reports FM Bolivia.

The police official said that many crimes resulting from drug related disputes go unreported, and can escalate to the point of murder. He noted that immigration from neighboring countries is a factor in driving crime in Santa Cruz.

InSight Crime Analysis

Santa Cruz is emerging as a hub for the international drug trade, with foreign criminal groups setting up operations in the city. It sits on a major international drug smuggling route which links Bolivia’s Cochabamba coca-producing region to West Africa and Europe.

Brazilian drug traffickers are known to have a presence in Santa Cruz, with associates of the Comando Vermelho (Red Command) arrested there in 2011, while one Colombian intelligence official estimated recently that 3,000 Colombian drug traffickers were operating in the city.

Colombian and Brazilian traffickers have been driven to Bolivia in part to avoid pressure from their own governments. If these groups are causing increasing rates of violent crime in Santa Cruz, as police director Toro suggests, it could be Bolivia’s signal to take tougher action to stop the city serving as a haven for foreign gangs.

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