The re-arrest of a Bolivian drug trafficker who works for an organization that allegedly helps move Peruvian cocaine through Bolivia to Brazil, and on to Europe shows how long running Bolivian criminal clans are adapting to changes in the regional cocaine trade.
A Bolivian anti-narcotics police operation led to the seizure of 395 kilograms of cocaine and arrest of two men, reported La Razon. The men’s full identities have yet to be revealed, although police have said one of them was a fugitive who had been convicted on drug charges in 1999.
According to police, the men worked for a Bolivian crime family with connections in Peru and Brazil. The traffickers allegedly masked their activities under a legitimate business, which delivered oil to Peru. On the trucks’ return they were diverted through Peru’s main cocaine producing region — known as the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM) — where they would be filled with cocaine. Authorities believe the drugs would then be unloaded in Bolivia and sold to Brazilian criminal organizations, either for sale on the domestic market or export to Europe.
Following the arrests, anti-narcotics police announced the clan involved was one of two transnational operations they had indentified in Bolivia that were trafficking cocaine by this route.
InSight Crime Analysis
The police operation highlights the increasing role of Bolivia as a transit country, in addition to its already well-known production and processing capabilities. The route is not new, but illustrates just how burgeoning production in one country like Peru can spark a new dynamic in another. In this case, according to Bolivian police, it is more profitable for Bolivian traffickers to buy in the neighboring nation since Peruvian cocaine is cheaper than the locally produced product.
In addition, Bolivian drug trafficking has traditionally been the preserve of criminal clans based on family ties, rather than the sort of large-scale cartels seen in Colombia and Mexico. If the police’s information is accurate, then the case also highlights how these old-school criminal groups are adapting to the new market conditions.