Five cases show that drug traffickers rule in Bolivia

Nelson Peredo reports for La Prensa:

Until August, at least five cases of drug trafficking showed that this illicit business continues to rule in Bolivia. The investigation about Pedro Montenegro, the Candia-Castedo clans (in Beni) and Copa (in El Alto), the Paolo Lumia case, the police officers detained with cocaine in Oruro and the narco planes are the relevant investigations that have caused a stir this year.

The Montenegro case, released by this newspaper in April, unveiled a broad network of protection that included senior police chiefs of Santa Cruz, businessmen and judicial authorities. The narco defendant is requested by Brazil, which investigated him for transnational traffic.

The Candia-Castedo clan, which operated in Beni, was dismantled in May after one of its pilots was captured in Paraguay in a plane with 302 kilos of cocaine. This criminal group had among its ranks an exalted official of the Government of Beni, former prosecutor and former leader of the MAS in that region.

The arrest on July 3 of the Sicilian mafia boss Paolo Lumia, in Cochabamba, showed once again that international mafias have a presence in the country through emissaries. The Italian was wanted in his country and was known as one of the “drug lords.”

Lumia hid in an apartment in the residential area of Cala Cala and intended to open a restaurant. He was expelled from the country after the follow-up of the Italian special forces.

To this is added the case of police officers detained with drugs in Oruro, in addition to the ambush of narcos helped by community members in the San Rafael area, in Villa Tunari, in March, near the protected area of Tipnis.

For congressman Tomás Monasterio (UD), one who has most reported drug cases, these, added to others, are the sign that the drug has not only penetrated the State agencies, but that the State itself has institutionalized this crime .

“The State is complicit in this evil, it has been demonstrated with complaints and evidence. There are elements that directly link sectors of the Government with drug trafficking,” he said.

In response, congresswoman Brígida Quiroga (MAS), a member of the Anti-Drug Trafficking Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, said Bolivia improved the drug fight based on the nationalization of the fight against this evil, the expulsion of the DEA and the implementation of legislation that respects human rights.

The legislator rejected that the drug trafficking has penetrated the organisms of the State and assured that there are no cartels in Bolivia.

“Progress has been made, with dignity and sovereignty. The data of the Unodc (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) proves it. Bolivia is a drug transit country from Peru to neighboring countries,” she said.

According to data from Unodc, 24,500 hectares of coca were registered in Bolivia in 2017, 6 percent more than the previous year. The largest increase was reported in the Tropic of Cochabamba, where crops grew 17 percent, from 7,200 hectares in 2016 to 8,400 in 2017. 94% of coca in the tropics does not pass through legal markets.

The relationship of a leader of the Blooming club in Santa Cruz with drug trafficking has also come to light in recent weeks. Nelson Mauriel was shot dead on July 5 due to an alleged settling of scores.

Likewise, only in the month of July, three lifeless men [mules] who took drugs to Chile in their bodies were found dead.

The government minister, Carlos Romero, in a press conference on July 25, said that the fight against drugs is being strengthened with heavy blows to criminal organizations.

That day he reported that the operations against the drug in Beni resulted in the hijacking of 12 aircraft in recent months.

Among the hardest blows against drug trafficking was reported the seizure of half a ton of cocaine in a house in Quillacollo; another operation in Baures, Beni, with the confiscation of 200 kilos of cocaine, in April, and the dismantling of the “Copa clan” that operated in El Alto and moved hundreds of kilos of drugs between Peru and Bolivia.

  • “It is due to the lack of administrative control by the State over the ‘primary markets’ for the sale of coca, it can be avoided by controlling these markets.” Luis Choque, Lawyer
  • “More than 95% of Chapare coca is not for the traditional acullico [coca chewing], but for drug trafficking. Many accomplices, the current administration, coca growers and others.” Antonio Eid, Student

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