Recent attacks in Bolivia attributed to Brazil's main criminal groups have led Bolivia's interior minister to believe that these organziations have divided territorial control of the Andean country among themselves. This seems to be yet further evidence of Brazilian criminal groups' continued international expansion.
On July 13, a group of individuals allegedly linked to Brazil's First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital - PCC) and equipped with military weapons opened fire upon a jewelry store in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz, reported O Globo.
Upon the arrival of Bolivian authorities to the scene of the crime, a shootout occurred that led to the deaths of three of the assailants presumably of Brazilian nationality: a Bolivian security official, and one of the jewelry shop workers. Additionally, officials also captured two individuals of Bolivian nationality who were linked to the PCC.
This has been the most recent attack in Bolivia attributed to Brazilian criminal groups. In March, the PCC attacked a Brinks Bank convoy in Santa Cruz, while the PCC's rivals, the Red Command (Comando Vermelho), had been accused of committing kidnappings and extortions in the northern department of Pando.
As a result of these actions, Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero told the newspaper El Deber that "it seems as if [the PCC and Red Command] had agreed on a territorial division" in Bolivia with the goal of "capitalizing" on a criminal stronghold, as it seems that the PCC has taken over criminal activities in Santa Cruz while the Red Command has done the same in Pando.
On July 16, Romero admitted that Bolivia "was not prepared to confront the 'modus operandi' of international criminal groups," reported Página Siete.
InSight Crime Analysis
The PCC and Red Command, formerly allied prison gangs, now find themselves in a war for Brazil's drug consumer market, one of the world's largest.
The influence of both groups, but especially that of the PCC, has transcended borders. The PCC has successfully expanded its criminal activities to several South American countries, including major drug producers like Colombia, Paraguay and Bolivia.
Bolivia is a transit country for cocaine and also the main supplier of a coca base derivative, known as "basuco," which is widely consumed in Brazil. Thus, the apparent territorial control that these groups have in that country is not so surprising, seeing that, as Romero says, it would provide them with a secure source of income.
Bolivian officials, including Romero, have previously said that only "emissaries," not "cartels" operate in the country in a permanent fashion. But recent events could potentially indicate that Brazilian organized crime is playing an increasingly important role in this Andean nation.