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BRIEF

Bolivia Steps Up Fight Against Corruption

BOLIVIA / 12 JAN 2015 BY KYRA GURNEY EN

Bolivia is investigating 50 judicial and police officials for irregularities in their sworn declarations of assets, a welcome move against corruption which is one of the contributors to the country's vulnerability to organized crime.

Nardi Suxo, the head of Bolivia's anti-corruption ministry, has identified 20 prosecutors, 18 judges, and 12 police officials who have worked on corruption and drug trafficking cases and have suspicious asset declarations, reported El Deber. The declarations have been sent to the Attorney General's Office so the individuals in question can be investigated for embezzlement and the falsification, or omission, of asset information.

In one case under investigation, reported by La Razon, a police coronel amassed close to $145,000 in assets in the span of ten years on a salary of around $400 a month. The official reported the purchase of five properties on his declaration of assets, while omitting the purchase of two more.  

In response to President Evo Morales' recent announcement of a referendum to reform Bolivia's judicial system, the head of the country's European Union delegation agreed that there was "much to be done in terms of the administration of justice in the country" and identified several issues including access to justice, delays, and "above all corruption through economic and political influence."

InSight Crime Analysis

Corruption in Bolivia's judicial system and police force is nothing new, but the investigations initiated by Suxo could mark an increased effort to tackle the problem.

When InSight Crime conducted field investigations in Bolivia last year, police, legislative, and underworld sources all affirmed that elements of the police work with drug traffickers, while criminal defense attorneys claimed judges and prosecutors charge between $20,000 and $50,000 to let alleged criminals off. In one of the country's most high profile corruption cases, former anti-drug czar Police General Rene Sanabria was sentenced by a US court in 2011 to 15 years in prison for smuggling cocaine.

SEE ALSO: Evo's Challenge: Bolivia the Drug Hub

In what may be another sign Bolivia is stepping up the fight against corruption, on January 5 Morales called for a referendum designed to root out corruption in the judicial system. In this context, the comments made by the normally reticent EU delegation in Bolivia could be interpreted as support for efforts to reform the country's judiciary system. The EU is a major donor in Bolivia -- in 2013, the EU pledged over $33 million in anti-drug assistance -- and has a stake in Bolivia's fight against corruption, as the ability to coopt the police and judiciary increases a country's vulnerability to drug trafficking groups

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