‘Drug Flights Entering Bolivia From Paraguay, Argentina’

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According to Bolivia’s top anti-drug official, criminal groups have developed new international drug trafficking routes through the country. Alongside the release of new drug seizure statistics, this all points to Bolivia’s growing role as a transit hub in South America’s drug trade. 

Bolivia’s Special Counter-Narcotics Police Force (FELCN) nearly tripled its marijuana seizures between 2013 to 2014, according to agency director Santiago Delgadillo. The FELCN also seized 24 “narco planes” — lightweight aircraft generally used to ship cocaine — during the first half of 2014, compared to 27 narco planes seized in all of 2014, Delgadillo said.

While Delgadillo credited these numbers to better law enforcement, he also acknowledged Bolivia’s growing role as a transit hub for South American drug traffickers. “Bolivia is basically a transit nation, with easy access allowing free movement,” the anti-drug official was quoted as saying

SEE ALSO: Evo’s Challenge: Bolivia the Drug Hub

According to Delgadillo, the majority of marijuana moving through Bolivia is grown in Paraguay. It often transits through the southern Bolivian city of Tarija before moving on to final destinations in Chile and Argentina, he added. 

Meanwhile, drug traffickers have increasingly been launching narco planes from Argentina and Paraguay, and landing them on hidden airstrips in east and northeastern Bolivia, Delgadillo said. Despite interdiction efforts, criminals are flying narco planes across Bolivia’s borders with Argentina and Paraguay on a near weekly basis, he said. Drug shipments carried on these flights are often moved on to Chile, and from there to the United States and Europe, he added. 

During the first half of 2015, Bolivia arrested 1,875 people in relation to drug trafficking crimes. Many of those arrested were from neighboring nations like Colombia, Brazil and Peru, Delgadillo said. 

InSight Crime Analysis

As previously documented by InSight Crime, Bolivia is becoming a key transit nation for South America’s drug trade, with transnational criminal organizations using the country as a stopover point before moving cocaine to Argentina, Brazil, and Europe. 

Delgadillo’s comments suggest that drug smugglers may now also be moving in the other direction, and are using Chile as a jump-off point to international markets. 

SEE ALSO:  Evo’s Challenge: Bolivia the Drug Hub

What this means for Chile remains to be seen. The nation is regarded as one of the safety and most stable in South America. However, an increase in international drug trafficking activity would likely lead to an increase in drug-related violence.

Evidence has previously suggested that — asides from the cocaine processed within Bolivia’s own borders — cocaine is also entering the country from Peru’s Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley region, known as the VRAEM. Notably, during his press conference, Delgadillo reportedly asserted there is no longer a significant amount of aerial trafficking between Peru and Bolivia. While both Peru and Bolivia have made efforts to confront this cocaine air bridge, the governments of both countries would have to release more evidence showing that trafficking between the VRAEM and Bolivia has indeed dropped, before this should become a credible claim. 

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