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Bolivia Celebrates Anti-Drug Day

BOLIVIA / 1 NOV 2010 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

Bolivia has indicated recently that it is interested in new alliances in the fight against the drug trade.

The country is expected to lobby the European Union for more drug aid, when the international body next meets in Brussels on October 13. The head of Russia's anti-narcotics division, Victor Ivanov, is also due to visit La Paz in two weeks, and is expected to sign a cooperation agreement with President Evo Morales, EFE reports. Bolivia received $22 million in US aid this year for anti-drug operations, even though the White House included Bolivia in its annual list of countries that have "failed" to cooperate sufficiently in fighting the drug trade.

Monday also saw Bolivia commemorate a "Day Against Drug Consumption", which, along with a march of 10,000 students in La Paz, brought some key observations from César Guedes, the region's United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime representative. "This is a country that has turned into a transit zone for drugs," he told La Razon, adding that the country is also seeing increased internal drug consumption. "This is what preoccupies us because Bolivia didn't have this problem before. It's been a producer of illicit cultivations, then later a producer of drugs that normally went to foreign markets. But now we have to take into account Bolivia's economic growth, increased spending power and the fact that international drug trafficking mafias are seeing new business opportunities here."

Guedes had previously remarked that Bolivia's drug trafficking makes up between three and five percent of the country's GDP, something confirmed by the country's vice president. We haven't seen any hard data yet indicating that drug consumption inside Bolivia has grown, which would represent a new source of income for the country's traffickers. For the most part the Andean nation is a transit ground for cocaine exports to the rest of South America, even though the country produces and exports less cocaine than Colombia and Peru. According to the BBC, 60 percent of Brazil's cocaine is shipped from Bolivia. And Monday in Paraguay, officials detained two Bolivian pilots shipping 226 kilos of cocaine, reports EFE.

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