Colombia Admits that its Drug Gangs Are in Bolivia

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Colombia’s government has confirmed the presence of Colombian drug trafficking organizations in Bolivia, saying that it will work with the neighboring government to tackle this phenomenon.

Speaking in the Bolivian city of Tiquipaya, Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said that her government knew of the presence of Colombian groups in Bolivia, but that she could not name which groups they were. She said that Colombia’s success in fighting trafficking could sometimes have a negative impact on other countries, and for that reason the country had a policy of working with others to help them combat the drug trade, reports AFP

On Tuesday, the two countries signed an agreement to support one another in matters of defense and in fighting drug trafficking, reports Bolivian newspaper La Estrella del Oriente.

InSight Crime Analysis

Bolivia’s government has repeatedly denied that foreign drug trafficking groups have a presence inside the country, arguing that they may have “representatives” but not a permanent, militarized presence which qualifies as a cartel. However, according to Senate testimony by a US anti-drug agent, both Mexican and Colombian traffickers are increasing their presence in the country.

Last year, an anonymous Colombian intelligence official claimed that there were up to 3,000 Colombian drug traffickers in the east Bolivian department of Santa Cruz. These groups are likely drawn to the neighboring country because of its status as an important coca producer and its strategic location between Colombia and Brazil, an export hub and cocaine consumer.

Another reason for Colombian traffickers to relocate to Bolivia is pressure from the security forces in their home country, as Holguin suggested. The security improvements in Colombia in the last 10 years have caused many top capos to relocated operations abroad, in a manifestation of the “balloon effect,” in which victories against the drug trade in one country or region simply cause it to expand elsewhere.

The issue is particularly sensitive, as the US has accused the Morales government, which supports the cultivation of coca for traditional purposes, of failing to do enough to fight the cocaine trade.

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