HomeNewsBriefBolivia Assassinations Underscore Role of Santa Cruz in Drug Trade
BRIEF

Bolivia Assassinations Underscore Role of Santa Cruz in Drug Trade

BOLIVIA / 25 JUL 2014 BY KYRA GURNEY EN

Recent targeted assassinations coupled with the capture of the alleged Colombian leader of a drug trafficking group linked to payback killings in Santa Cruz, Bolivia highlight the eastern province's growing status as a transnational crime hub.

Over the last two weeks at least five people have been murdered in Santa Cruz in what appear to be revenge killings, which the province's Governor Ruben Costas has attributed to drug trafficking groups, reported La Razon. He also said Santa Cruz was becoming increasingly violent because of the illegal drug trade.  

On July 23, Bolivian law enforcement agents captured Alicia Lorena Vargas Muñoz, alias "La Mona," a Colombian national who allegedly ran a drug trafficking group with international ties and who has been implicated in Santa Cruz murders, reported El Deber. Vargas was arrested along with four other individuals.

According to police investigations, one victim -- killed in April 2013 -- was a Peruvian national who had fled to Bolivia after failing to pay a drug trafficking debt. Vargas allegedly tracked him down in Santa Cruz and sent hit men to kill him.

InSight Crime Analysis

Bolivia is both a cocaine producer and a transit nation for Peruvian cocaine. Most of the cocaine coming from Bolivia is sold to domestic markets in Brazil and Argentina or shipped from those countries on to Europe. An estimated 80 percent of Bolivian cocaine is smuggled into Brazil, much of it passing through the Santa Cruz province, which shares a border with Brazil and has become a major drug trafficking hub.

As a result -- as the capture of Vargas highlights -- a number of international drug trafficking groups have begun operations or have emissaries in the province, including the Brazilian prison gangs the First Capital Command (PCC) and the Red Command. In 2011, a Colombian intelligence officer stated that as many as 3,000 Colombian drug traffickers operated in Santa Cruz. In some cases, the foreign criminals setting up shop in Santa Cruz are fleeing prosecution in their home countries and apparently see the Bolivian province as a relative safe haven.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Bolivia

The most recent killings could be a sign of rising violence connected to the drug trade as the presence of foreign crime groups continues to grow. In comparison, just three drug-related shootings reportedly took place in June of 2011.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BOLIVIA / 22 JUL 2021

A recent clash between soldiers and smugglers has pointed to how Bolivia’s trade in contraband has reached a flashpoint.

BOLIVIA / 28 MAY 2021

Bolivia's controversial former interior minister and his chief of staff have both been arrested in the United States on charges…

BOLIVIA / 9 AUG 2022

Politicians are pushing for the Chilean government to declare a state of emergency in the northern regions including Tarapacá…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…