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Bolivia Plans to Monitor Foreign Nationals to Combat Crime

BOLIVIA / 20 MAR 2012 BY CHRISTOPHER LOOFT EN

Bolivia’s government has announced plans to set up a bilateral intelligence sharing center with Colombia, to help combat drug trafficking and monitor Colombian nationals who pass through the country.

Government Minister Carlos Romero said that on a recent trip to Colombia, Bolivia's president Evo Morales and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos had agreed to set up a joint intelligence center to monitor migrant flows and combat drug trafficking.

Romero noted that Bolivia's geography, as a landlocked country in the center of the continent, made it difficult to monitor the entry of foreign nationals. He said that the government wanted to exchange information with Colombia, Mexico and Peru on the criminal records of their nationals who pass through Bolivia, and to monitor their activity in the country.

In addition to sharing intelligence, the two presidents agreed Colombia would send a delegation to advise Bolivian authorities on security issues.

InSight Crime Analysis

The drug trade in Bolivia, which is the third biggest cocaine producer in the world, is controlled mostly by foreign groups, while Bolivian traffickers have a relatively low profile.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said last year that Colombian and Mexican cartels were increasing their presence in the country. However, a representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Bolivia responded by saying that the trade was handled by "local groups or Brazilians, Europeans, Colombians, not exactly Mexicans.”

There is thought to be a particularly big presence of Colombian traffickers in the province of Santa Cruz, to the east of the country. Some Colombian groups operating in Cochabamba province are reported to have ties to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Bolivia arrested 84 Colombians accused of drug trafficking last year, according to El Espectador.

The announcement of the plans to share information with Colombia follow reports that Peru and Bolivia would form a binational police force to secure their shared border.

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