HomeNewsBriefBolivia Coca Monitoring Chief Accused of Stealing Coca Leaf
BRIEF

Bolivia Coca Monitoring Chief Accused of Stealing Coca Leaf

BOLIVIA / 9 OCT 2013 BY NATALIE SOUTHWICK EN

The head of Bolivia's coca commercialization agency has been arrested on corruption charges, in a blow to President Evo Morales' campaign to convince the international community Bolivia can effectively balance a legal coca market with anti-narcotics efforts.

On October 7, Bolivian authorities arrested the national director of coca industrialization, Luis Cutipa, on charges including extortion, abuse of power and negligence, reported La Razon.

Cutipa, the top government official responsible for monitoring and controlling legal coca transport and sales, is accused of diverting 45 tons of government-seized coca leaves to family members. The leaves, worth about $2.6 million, had been seized by authorities and were supposed to be destroyed. Instead, prosecutors say they were sent to Cutipa's sisters in the Santa Cruz department, a notorious trafficking hub.

According to Bolivia's attorney general, Cutipa also made more than $500,000 in illegal income after doubling the price of renewing coca vendors' licenses in 2008.

InSight Crime Analysis

The scandal is a setback for Bolivian president Evo Morales and his "Coca Yes, Cocaine No" campaign, which aims to persuade the international community to accept legal coca production.

The campaign is based not only on distinguishing between coca leaf and cocaine, but also on assuring the international community that legal coca production will not result in a boom in illegal cultivation of crops destined for the cocaine trade. 

In this area, Bolivia has had mixed success. Coca cultivation has declined for two consecutive years, however Cutipa himself previously estimated that up to 20% of the approximately 20,000 hectares of legal coca grown each year is diverted into the drug trade.

Bolivia's pro-coca policies have consistently caused tensions with the United States, which closed its anti-narcotics office in Bolivia in May 2013. Morales has also clashed with international monitoring organizations over coca, even withdrawing from the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs in 2012. Bolivia rejoined the convention in 2013 after gaining an exemption permitting traditional coca leaf consumption within the country.

Though the UN ruling was widely seen as a victory for Bolivia, the sustainability of Bolivia's position depends on its ability to demonstrate its commitment to fighting illegal coca production. Cases like the Cutipa arrest, which highlights corruption at the very heart of the state's legal coca institutions, will seriously hamper Morales in his attempts to convince the international community Bolivia is capable of the delicate balancing act required to maintain a legal coca market while effectively tackling illegal production. 

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 / 4 FEB 2022

The US indictment of Bolivia's former anti-narcotics chief on drug and weapons charges means he could possibly be extradited to…

BOLIVIA / 25 JUL 2022

Venezuelan gang, Tren de Aragua, has gradually become one of South America's main criminal threats, with Chile its latest target.

COCA / 4 NOV 2021

Though the amount of coca in Peru has been the subject of recent debate, reports indicate that coca crops have…

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…