A Bolivian government official says that a recent incident involving coca growers attacking the security forces was spurred by Peruvian drug traffickers present in the region, a plausible theory, although the coca growers could have also acted on their own.
As EFE reports, the vice minister of narcotics affairs, Felipe Caceres, told media that a joint task force made up of police and military faced resistance when they ventured into a region 450 kilometers north of La Paz, in order to destroy coca crops.
The task force entered the region, Apolo, between May 25 and 26, and were blocked by some 30 people, many of them coca growers, the minister said. The protesters attacked the security forces with stones and sticks, while the agents responded with tear gas. Only one coca grower was injured during the clash.
Caceres said that he had intelligence showing that Peruvian drug traffickers active in the region had “instigated” the conflict.
He warned that the government would apply an “iron fist” in eradicating illegal coca crops from Apolo.
InSight Crime Analysis
There is substantial evidence showing that Peruvian drug trafficking organizations have an established presence in Bolivia. An anonymous drug trafficker interviewed recently by a Peruvian newspaper even commented that Bolivia is viewed as an “ideal place” to sell cocaine shipments. Additionally, police have said that trafficking organizations moving cocaine between Bolivia and Brazil frequently deal with Peruvian product.
Still, given the long history of conflict between Bolivia’s coca growers and government eradication teams, it is not as though the coca growers would need a foreign group of drug traffickers to “instigate” their protests, as Caceres said. It is possible that by blaming Peruvians for the riot, Caceres was attempting in part to deflect the blame.
Other foreign drug trafficking organizations in Bolivia include the Colombians, who are known for running large-scale cocaine laboratories inside the country.