Bolivia plans to create a new law aimed at tackling corruption within the national police force, which could prove timely given the nation's rising importance in the cocaine trade.
In statements also meant to acknowledge the 189th anniversary of the creation of Bolivia's police force, President Evo Morales revealed plans for a law aimed at protecting low and mid-ranking police who choose to blow the whistle on their superiors, local press reported.
"Police subordinates who report on their higher ups will be recognized and rewarded," Morales was quoted as saying. He went on to complain that high-ranking police misuse their authority in order to "protect illegality within the institution."
The president's comments come in wake of a larger scandal playing out in Bolivia, in which former police general Rosario Chavez has accused numerous colleagues of discrimination and corruption. Bolivia's vice president also recently confirmed some of Chavez's allegations, stating that police "buy and sell" promotions within their ranks.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although the proposed law is aimed at internal police corruption, it could nevertheless have significant implications for Bolivia's struggle against drug trafficking and organized crime.
Chavez's recent accusations against her fellow police is just the latest in a series of corruption scandals. A recent study by Bolivian research foundation the Observatory for Democracy and Security claimed that almost 80 percent of all incidents involving police transfers or demotions in recent years involved corruption. Meanwhile, local newspaper La Prensa recently reported that low-ranking police must pay between $30 to $50 in bribes to secure promotions, while mid and high-ranking officers can expect to be charged $500 to $2,000.
As outlined in a special report by InSight Crime, Bolivia is increasingly used as a transit nation by foreign drug traffickers moving cocaine to Argentina and Brazil, and often from there on to Europe via North Africa. Buying off police allies is essential to the operations of these transnational drug trafficking groups, and they are obviously capable of paying much more than what Bolivian police are reportedly charging each other for internal promotions. Allowing this widespread culture of corruption to flourish within the police only makes it easier for drug traffickers to infiltrate them.
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The arrest of ex-police chief Oscar Nina is a particularly damming example of how far organized crime has already infiltrated Bolivia's police force. The former head of Bolivia's anti-drug squad was accused of connections with drug traffickers, including a member of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel. While Bolivian authorities have not yet clarified when the new police reform law will see the light of day, encouraging subordinates to report corruption in the upper ranks could go a long way in preventing more Oscar Ninas from emerging.