Bolivian authorities have reported an increase in cocaine production in the country’s western region, suggesting that transnational crime may be expanding influence within Bolivia, a major regional trafficking hub.
Based on recent discoveries of large-scale cocaine factories near Bolivia’s border with Chile and Peru, anti-drug officials say cocaine processing is growing in the areas around the cities of Oruro, Potosi and La Paz, reported La Razon.
The announcement follows the discovery in September of a “narco-village” near the Chilean border and the destruction of another factory in the same area in July. Bolivian authorities say they have uncovered several other cocaine factories in nearby towns since the beginning of 2013, reported La Razon.
According to Bolivian officials, this area is new territory for traffickers, who usually use factories in eastern Santa Cruz department, a primary transit point, or the central department of Cochabamba, one of the country’s largest coca producing regions.
InSight Crime Analysis
Bolivia’s central location and easy access to precursor chemicals have made it an increasingly important hub for processing domestic and Peruvian coca, largely destined for export and consumption elsewhere in Latin America.
The country’s weak law enforcement and flux in the leadership of the anti-narcotics police (FELCN), combined with the expulsion of the US Drug Enforcement Administration and subsequent withdrawal of other US drug monitoring agencies, have created a path of minimal resistance for drug traffickers. Lax oversight has allowed drug labs to proliferate throughout the country and spread to border towns, which already have an established connection to smuggling routes into other countries, particularly Brazil.
Brazil is the destination for an estimated 80 percent of Bolivian-produced cocaine, which is either exported to Europe or sold on the domestic market — now the world’s second largest behind the United States. Brazil’s First Capital Command (PCC) is one of the key players in this trade and has a growing presence in the country.
Bolivian government denials of the presence of foreign organized criminal groups within the country have receded over the last year, with officials increasingly recognizing the threat they pose to security. Earlier this year, Brazil and Bolivia set out bilateral plans for efforts against organized crime in the border region.
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