HomeNewsBriefBolivia Church Clashes With Govt in Scathing Attack on Drug Corruption
BRIEF

Bolivia Church Clashes With Govt in Scathing Attack on Drug Corruption

BOLIVIA / 7 APR 2016 BY MIMI YAGOUB EN

A pastoral letter by members of Bolivia’s Catholic Church has spoken out against drug trafficking and consumption in the country, controversially laying part of the blame on the nation’s “corrupt” government and security forces.

The letter by the Bolivian Bishop’s Conference (Conferencia Episcopal Boliviana – CEB) — which was harshly criticized by the government — is entitled “Today I set before you life or death” (see document below). In the 50-page publication, the clergymen express their concerns that drug trafficking has become “an increasingly alarming reality in Bolivia,” where “growing traffic and consumption of illegal drugs … are seriously affecting the Bolivian population, ‘mainly young people.'”

A key topic is that of official corruption, impunity, institutional deficiencies and public distrust in Bolivian authorities.

“As it is a public issue, drug trafficking … also penetrates the state and the security forces,” the letter reads. “Corruption has undermined the credibility of the authorities … responsible for drug interdiction.”

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Bolivia

The letter also makes a distinction between drug addicts and drug trafficking. While consumers need to receive human and spiritual assistance, the bishops say, drug trafficking should be considered a “crime against humanity that harms people, generates violence, death and destroys families … it represents a serious sin and an offense against the God of life … For this reason, we join [former Pope] Saint John Paul II in firmly denouncing drug traffickers as ‘merchants of death.'”

The pastoral letter promotes prevention and education as critical elements in the fight against the drug trade. It states the need to focus on criminal finances, including the issue of money laundering, and calls for more international cooperation between affected countries.

The bishops furthermore highlight the environmental costs of illegal cultivations, although they respect the “permitted” traditional use of coca leaf in Andean cultures.

Hoy pongo ante ti la vida o la muerte – Carta Pastoral sobre Narcotráfico y Drogadicción

InSight Crime Analysis

The Bolivian bishops’ outspokenness on the topic of organized crime comes rather unexpectedly. While the Bolivian Church has expressed its worries and clashed with the government on the drug issue for decades, this appears to be the deepest criticism of the state’s role in the narcotics industry by Bolivia’s bishops in recent years.

Less surprising is the Bolivian government’s bitter reaction to the letter. President Evo Morales said that it was incomprehensible that the Church should accuse members of the government of drug trafficking, and demanded the institution immediately present names of the allegedly corrupt officials.

“Be responsible with your discourse,” Morales stated, adding that if the Church did not provide evidence he would assume the institution wanted to “attack the indigenous movement, like in the past.”

Other officials have reproached the Church‘s “gaffe” for being politically and ideologically charged, and for overlooking the state’s purported advances against drug trafficking.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Security Policy

Indeed, in Latin America — a region with a very strong religious culture — the Church’s participation in the organized crime debate can be a slippery one. This is in part due to a conservative attitude that is often at odds with national and international politics. The Bolivian bishop’s tough stance on drug consumption, for example, could potentially help polarize the drug liberalization debate that has steadily been gaining traction in the region.

What’s more, the Church has itself been implicated in organized crime in various countries including Mexico, Argentina and Paraguay, undermining its credibility.

Nevertheless, this has not stopped religious figures across the continent from making their voices heard in the fight against drugs. The Church has also been called upon to broker truces involving illegal armed groups, including the 2012 El Salvador gang truce and past peace negotiations with Colombian guerrillas — agreements that ultimately failed.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

BOLIVIA / 13 AUG 2019

Violent tensions are flaring in Bolivia's capital between hostile factions of one of the country's coca growers’ unions, escalating a…

HONDURAS / 12 JUL 2018

Honduras authorities recently seized five airplanes thought to have been used to transport drugs through a remote region of the…

PERU / 15 JAN 2014

There were months of passivity from the authorities while the face of drug trafficking in the region of Peru known…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…