Bolivia-Sinaloa Links Suggest Mexico Cartel Expansion

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    A Bolivian pilot shot dead while trying to fly cocaine out of Peru was reportedly linked to the Sinaloa Cartel, suggesting Mexican cartels are moving in on European trafficking routes through Bolivia and Brazil.

    Angel Roca Rivera was killed in a shootout with Peruvian anti-drug police as he attempted to take off with 270 kilos of cocaine from a clandestine airstrip in the region of Pasco in central Peru, reported El Comercio. Two Peruvian gunmen were subsequently captured in the operation.

    According to security forces sources consulted by Peruvian newspaper La Republica, Roca worked for a group based in Bolivia that is affiliated with Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. The sources said he made up to four flights a week moving cocaine produced in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM). The drugs were then moved on to Brazil before before being exported to Europe.

    InSight Crime Analysis

    The drug trafficking corridor moving Peruvian cocaine to Brazil via the “air bridge” of Bolivia is now a well-established route for drugs headed both to Brazil’s large domestic market and for export to the booming European market.

    However, this route is more commonly associated with Colombian drug traffickers and Brazilian gangs such as the First Capital Command (PCC), which has been expanding its role in the transnational drug trade.

    The European market is also more traditionally associated with Colombian traffickers, who have long had connections with the Italian mafia, especially the main players in the regional cocaine trade, the ‘Ndrangheta.

    The fact that the Bolivian pilot appears to have been working for the Sinaloa Cartel suggests the Mexicans are now muscling in on this route. It also adds weight to concerns that Mexican cartels are looking to expand their influence in Europe.

    The Peru to Brazil route is far away from home for the Mexicans, and expanding into Europe means creating new networks rather than relying on firmly established supply and distribution operations in the United States. However, with cocaine use falling in the United States and rising in Europe, the expansion could prove lucrative for the Mexicans, and as they have eclipsed the Colombians as the main players in the global cocaine trade they are more than capable of seizing control of new routes and markets.

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