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Bolivian Official: 70 Percent of Crime Linked to Drug Trafficking

BOLIVIA / 20 FEB 2012 BY GEOFFREY RAMSEY EN

A Bolivian anti-drug official has claimed that 70 percent of crimes registered in the country are tied to drug trafficking, a claim that seems difficult to support.

Speaking at the end of a civil society conference on insecurity in Bolivia last week, Deputy Minister for Social Defense Felipe Caceres claimed that 70 percent of all crimes in the country are related to drug trade. He specifically highlighted the departments of La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, which are the three most populous provinces in the country.

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Attempts to quantify the percentage of crime in the country that is strictly due to drug trafficking are difficult, as it is not easy to clearly identify a case with drugs. Is a carjacking committed by someone who also sells small quantities of marijuana, for instance, a crime linked to drug trafficking? Caceres did not apparently describe the methodology behind the claim, casting further doubt on the statistic.

Last month the US signed a long-awaited deal with the Bolivian government over coca monitoring, potentially putting the Bolivian government under increased pressure to portray itself taking a tough stance against drug traffickers. When combined with recent reports suggesting that 85 percent of crime in the country’s cities goes unreported, this figure does not bode well for the Bolivian government’s efforts to put its counter narcotics activites in the best light. The US government has claimed that the country has not done enough to combat the drug trade, while the Bolivian government has repeatedly said that it is doing its best to dissuade drug traffickers in the country while allowing a limited amount of legal coca cultivation.

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