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Bolivia to Spain Drug Network Unraveled

BOLIVIA / 29 MAR 2013 BY MIRIAM WELLS EN

An drug trafficking ring that transported Bolivian cocaine to Spain has been dismantled, revealing a direct international export routes from this Andean nation, which traditionally ships its drugs to neighbors like Brazil.

Following a joint investigation by Spanish and Bolivian police, sparked by the February 2012 death of a mule, 22 people of various nationalities were arrested in the Spanish cities of Murcia, Alicante and Madrid, reported news agency EFE. Another man, believed to be the head of the ring, was arrested in Bolivia.

Bolivian anti-drugs officers said the cocaine was processed in the north of Santa Cruz department, then shipped from the Santa Cruz's international Viru Viru airport, reported newspaper La Prensa. Around a ton had been sent recently, they estimated.

InSight Crime Analysis

Europe is an increasingly important cocaine market, with an estimated 4 to 5 million users. Spain is one of the main arrival points due to its shared language and large Latin American communities.  The main departure points for cocaine shipments to Europe are Venezuela and Brazil, but there is evidence that these routes are diversifying. Little is known about direct routes from Bolivia to Europe, and this is a rare example of Bolivian anti-drugs officers working with a European police force.

Bolivia has traditionally been a place where transnational groups (often Colombian or Brazilian) buy coca base and cocaine.  There is increasing evidence of Santa Cruz becoming a center for transnational organized crime dedicated to cocaine smuggling.

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