Security forces in Bolivia have uncovered and destroyed a "narco-village" dedicated to producing cocaine near the border with Chile, pointing to the growing domestic market for the drug in the latter country, as well as its importance as a transit nation.
Officers from Bolivia's Special Anti-drug Force (FELCN) raided the village of Iruni, 150 miles west of the city of Oruro, on September 28 and reported finding evidence of cocaine processing in every one of the 38 homes there, reported La Prensa.
The raid also found a cocaine processing factory, which was burned down, but no arrests were made as none of the residents were present during the police action, reported El Deber. According to the newspaper, the village's children were trained as lookouts and alerted villagers of the impending raid.
As reported by La Razon, security forces recovered 4.6 kilos of cocaine paste from the village. Authorities said the operation was capable of producing 1.5 kilos of cocaine per day and the drugs were sent to Chile.
InSight Crime Analysis
Bolivian border communities have a long history of involvement in smuggling and illicit activity, with 20 exposed as contraband hubs by the country's customs chief earlier this year. As one of the region's most impoverished nations, Bolivia borders five comparatively prosperous countries, so the black market flourishes in frontier regions, as local communities capitalize on the stronger economies on their doorstep and fluctuations in exchange rates.
The amount of cocaine being produced by this operation suggest that it was destined to be sold on the domestic market, rather than exported. While the Chilean domestic market for cocaine is relatively small compared to the likes of Brazil and Argentina, prevalence of cocaine use among the Chilean population is actually higher than in the other two nations, as highlighted by the Organization of American States 2011 Report on Drug Use in the Americas. Bolivia not only produces its own cocaine, but is known to process and move drugs from neighboring Peru.
Chile is also a transit nation for cocaine shipments, coming not only from Bolivia, but from the other coca-producing nations of Peru Colombia to the north. Chile has a healthy export sector, among the goods being shipped are wines and copper. A cocaine consignment from Colombia was found hidden in copper piping just last week at Santiago airport.