The extradition of a prominent Bolivian drug trafficker to Brazil reveals how family clans in the Andean nation serve as important cocaine suppliers to powerful organized crime groups across the region.
In May, Bolivia extradited alleged drug trafficker Jesús Einar Lima Lobo, the suspected leader of the Lima Lobo family clan, a long-standing drug group operating in the Bolivian Amazon along the northeast border with Brazil.
Lima Lobo faces charges of international drug trafficking brought against him in 2017 by Brazilian authorities.
First arrested back in October 2019 in Bolivia's Santa Cruz department bordering Brazil, Lima Lobo avoided extradition for a time due to contracting COVID-19 and allegedly due to the assistance of certain police, army and government officials, according to a Página Siete report. An investigation has been opened into whether former interior minister, Arturo Murillo, and former national police commander, Rodolfo Montero, acted to protect Lima Lobo from extradition, the government announced in May.
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In April 2020, Edwin Douglas Lima Lobo, the leader of the group and brother of Jesús Einar, began a 15-year prison sentence for drug trafficking in Bolivia.
Suspected members of the Lima Lobo clan have also run into trouble abroad. In October 2017, Brazilian authorities arrested Fabio Lima Lobo, the son of former Cali Cartel leader Célimo Andrade Quintero and Lima Lobo’s nephew.
Fabio Lima Lobo was arrested alongside Carlos Andrés Áñez Dorado, the nephew of former interim president Jeanine Áñez, after they landed in Brazil on a plane carrying almost half a ton of cocaine.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Lima Lobo clan provides rare insights into the role Bolivia's secretive family clans play in the region's border cocaine trafficking dynamics.
The Lima Lobo family first rose to prominence in the 1990s, with its power base set up around the town of San Joaquín, in Bolivia's northern department of Beni, close to the Brazilian border. It ended up supplying cocaine to drug trafficking groups in Colombia and Brazil, including the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), according to both Interpol and Bolivia's interior minister.
The group relied on a fleet of aircraft and clandestine airstrips, as well as other land and river routes, to ship cocaine over the border into Brazil, according to Bolivia's police chief, Jhonny Aguilera. Once there, the product moves in two directions: on to major cities for domestic consumption or to strategic seaports to be loaded onto container ships bound for the lucrative European market.
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The clan also had connections to Colombian drug lords. Andrade Quintero, who was arrested by Bolivian authorities in the Chapare coca-growing region in 1992, was allegedly the head of a Cali Cartel faction operating in Bolivia in the early 1990s. Bolivian anti-drug forces say Lima Lobo was the “heir” to the powerful drug trafficking network Andrade Quintero managed before being captured, according to El Deber, citing Bolivia's former interior minister, Carlos Romero.
Bolivia is currently the world’s third-largest coca growing country – the raw ingredient used to produce cocaine – behind Colombia and Peru. Its porous border with Brazil is marked by vast swathes of isolated terrain, making it difficult to patrol and an ideal place for drug smugglers to operate. The country is also the primary source of cocaine trafficked and sold by the PCC, São Paulo state prosecutor Marcio Sergio Christino told InSight Crime last year.