Bolivia is now reportedly home to at least 20 drug clans from Peru, providing an indication of how the presence of transnational organized crime has grown in the country as it has emerged as the principal transit point for Peruvian drug flights.
According to drug trafficking specialist Jaime Antezana and information from Peru's anti-drug body (DIRANDRO), these 20 family-based clans now operate out of Bolivia, shipping in then refining Peruvian cocaine paste, reported El Comerico. While some members are in prison and others are wanted by authorities, they continue to operate freely, said an unidentified intelligence source.
The director of Bolivia's anti-drug force (FELCN), Alexander Rojas, said a kilo of Peruvian cocaine paste -- worth around $1,000 in Peru's Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley region (VRAEM) -- costs $1,500 in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, reported El Deber. After being converted into powder form in clandestine laboratories, the kilo is worth $10,000 on the Brazilian market and up to $50,000 in Europe, he said.
According to El Comericio's DIRANDRO sources, 50 percent of the 450 tons of cocaine leaving Peru each year are trafficked by air, and of this, 95 percent is destined for Bolivia. The majority of flights leave from the VRAEM.
So far this year, authorities have seized over 1.5 tons of cocaine on six Bolivian planes.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Peruvian cocaine air bridge once connected to Colombia, but was shut down by an intensive US-assisted aerial campaign in the 1990s. It has now reemerged with a new destination: Bolivia. From there, the drugs are trafficked to the large Brazilian and Argentine domestic markets, as well as on to Europe.
Peru is the world's top coca and cocaine producer, and the VRAEM is the epicenter of the drug trade, producing an estimated 200 tons of cocaine each year. Ninety percent of this is trafficked out of the region by air, according to Peruvian security expert Ruben Vargas. The pilots are often Bolivian, and an experienced pilot can make up to $25,000 per flight.
The most recent reports indicate how Peruvians now control not only coca production and transport out of the country, but also are increasingly involved on the Bolivian end. A 2012 IDL-Reporteros report indicated Peru's drug clans had begun setting up operations in Bolivia as they were increasingly using the country to refine cocaine.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Criminal Migration
Bolivia -- and particularly the crime hub Santa Cruz -- has become home to a well-established foreign organized crime presence as its status as a transit country has grown. The country reportedly hosts up to 3,000 Colombian drug traffickers, emissaries from Brazil's principal drug groups, and even local robbery gangs with an international membership.