HomeNewsBriefBolivia Stats Show Apparent Drug War Gains Under Morales
BRIEF

Bolivia Stats Show Apparent Drug War Gains Under Morales

BOLIVIA / 22 JAN 2013 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

The Bolivian government has released statistics showing a dramatic increase in cocaine seizures since President Evo Morales assumed power in 2006, countering US claims that Bolivia is failing to uphold its international obligations in combating the drug trade. 

The reports compare the seven years before Morales’ election -- 1999-2005 -- to the first seven years of the Morales government -- 2006-2012. In 2008, Morales expelled the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from Bolivia and implemented a more nationalistic counternarcotics strategy.

The statistics show a big jump in cocaine seizures under Morales. Over 56 tons of cocaine were confiscated between 1999 and 2005 -- 46 tons of coca base and nearly 10 tons of cocaine hydrochloride. This more than doubled to 187 tons under Morales -- 157 tons of base and nearly 30 tons of cocaine hydrochloride.

The Morales era also saw more than triple the number of drugs labs destroyed, increasing from some 10,600 to over 33,600.

In addition, the government claimed success with a 23 percent drop in coca cultivation, down from 69,000 hectares to 53,000 hectares.

However, the eradication figures paint a more complex picture. Eradication was down in the Morales period, but has been rising since 2009 -- the first year without a DEA presence. Last year over 11,000 hectares were eradicated, the highest figure since 2002.

The Bolivian government also compared statistics on counter-narcotics operations. Under Morales, there have been over 82,000 anti-drug operations, up from some 32,000 in the period 1999-2005. These operations saw nearly 28,000 people arrested, close to 2,000 more than in the pre-Morales period. 

InSight Crime Analysis

This appears to be another salvo in the information war between the US and Bolivia. In 2012, the US government labeled Bolivia a country that has "failed demonstrably during the previous 12 months to adhere to their obligations under international counternarcotics agreements." The release of these statistics seems to be an attempt by the Bolivian government to counter that argument and present their policy in a better light.

To be sure, Bolivia's counter-narcotics operations have been a highly politicized issue since Morales, a leftist who headed a coca growers union, assumed the presidency. This was exacerbated by the expulsion of the DEA in 2008, ostensibly for "espionage" and "conspiracy" (although according to a WikiLeaks cable because Morales believed he was being followed by the DEA when he visited his girlfriends).

Still, since the DEA was expelled, the only source of information on Bolivian counter-narcotics has been the Bolivian government, and so the statistics have not been independently verified. (As InSight Crime has noted previously, the United States has also been accused of politicizing its figures on Bolivian counternarcotics operations, and is not necessarily a reliable source on this issue.)

What's more, even if the Bolivian government's figures are taken at face value, certain aspects of the reports may not represent an unqualified success. For example, a rise in seizures could indicate a rise in the amount of cocaine produced or trafficking through the country, rather than an improvement in law enforcement methods. Indeed, according to contentious US estimates, Bolivia's potential cocaine production increased by 70 percent between 2006 and 2008, to 195 tons, and remained at that level through 2009 and 2010.

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

DRUG POLICY / 20 MAY 2022

A spate of gang-related killings has caused panic in a marginalized area of Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo, raising debate about…

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.

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…