Bolivia Cocaine Seizures Down 52% in 2013

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Cocaine seizures in Bolivia fell by 52 percent for the first half of 2013 compared with the same period last year despite an increase in counter-narcotics operations, which may not represent quite the success the goverment is claiming.

According to numbers presented by Bolivia’s top anti-narcotics official, Felipe Caceres, cocaine and cocaine base seizures dropped from 20.3 tons in the first half of 2012 to 9.73 tons in the same period of 2013, reported La Razon. In addition, marijuana seizures fell by 84 percent compared with last year. The number of anti-drug operations carried out, meanwhile, rose, from 6,635 in 2012 to 6,743 in 2013. 

Caceres claimed the decrease in seizures was because the increase in operations had succeeded in slowing down the drug trade, tackling trafficking activity on the Brazilian and Peruvian borders through improved border controls, and cracking down on laboratories and the maceration pits used to make coca paste. Caceres also said that Bolivia had become a secondary producer of cocaine base, and primarily a transit country for product originating in Peru.

The minister also noted that the country’s Joint Task Force erradicated 5,062 hectares of illegal coca in the first half of 2013.

InSight Crime Analysis

In 2012, Bolivian drug seizures increased compared with 2011, and at the beginning of 2013, Bolivia released statistics showing a dramatic rise in cocaine seizures since 2006, when President Evo Morales took office. As noted by InSight Crime, this information appeared to be an attempt to counter US claims that Bolivia is not pulling its weight in the drug war.

US accusations that Bolivia is failing to adequately combat drug trafficking have caused continuous tension between the two countries and the two countries severed ties when the United States shut down its anti-narcotics office in Bolivia in May 2013, three weeks after Morales pushed USAID out of the country for allegedly operating with political aims. 

Bolivian claims that reduced drug seizures are indicative of successful anti-drug efforts could be accurate, but would then cast doubt on Morales’ previous use of rises in drug seizures to make the same claim.

In addition, the country’s interior minister said in June that Bolivia is struggling with rising violent crime, spurred in part by under-staffed and under-resourced police, and the country — particularly the Santa Cruz department — has become a major hub for transnational drug traffickers. In this context, the decrease in seizures could just as easily be illustrative of less effective operations.

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