HomeNewsBriefHigh-Ranking Bolivia Police Gave Protection to Wanted Drug Trafficker
BRIEF

High-Ranking Bolivia Police Gave Protection to Wanted Drug Trafficker

BOLIVIA / 1 MAY 2019 BY PARKER ASMANN EN

A number of high-ranking police officials in Bolivia have been arrested for their suspected links to a drug trafficker wanted for years by police in Brazil, but the full extent of their collusion has yet to be revealed.

Authorities in Bolivia arrested Gonzalo Medina, the former head of the country’s anti-crime force (Fuerza Especial de Lucha Contra el Crimen -- FELCC) in central Santa Cruz department, and former captain Fernando Moreira on drug trafficking and criminal association charges, as well as allegedly engaging in a cover-up, the Interior Ministry announced during a press conference last week.

The announcement came after authorities discovered that Medina and Moreira had allowed suspected drug trafficker Pedro Montenegro Paz -- wanted in Brazil since 2015 for trafficking drugs from São Paulo to Europe -- to attend two official FELCC events in Santa Cruz while Medina was head of the unit, La Razón reported.

Medina’s stepson, Robin Oscar Justiniano Meruvia -- who has also since been arrested on drug trafficking charges, though he denies the allegations -- appears in a photo with Montenegro at one such official event. Montenegro allegedly attended alongside departmental and national authorities despite his arrest warrant.

(Pedro Montenegro Paz (left) and Robin Justiniano, Medina's stepson (right), c/o El Deber)

What’s more, Moreira's wife was allegedly pictured with Montenegro in Cartagena, Colombia, during the Carnaval celebration last year. Montenegro reportedly bankrolled the trip for himself and nearly 20 others, including Medina and Moreira. The expenses surpassed some $19,000 and Montenegro used a fake identification card to travel, according to El Deber.

Members of Interpol’s Bolivia office allegedly deleted data on Montenegro’s arrest warrant from the system. The decision was originally annulled before later being approved by the Supreme Court, according to La Razón.

Since these revelations came to light, the two former policemen have been put in pre-trial detention and a number of other officials have also been arrested. In addition, the entire anti-crime unit in Santa Cruz, made up of some 150 officers, has been suspended so authorities can conduct an audit. Lie detector tests and family vetting will also now become mandatory for police chiefs.

“The General Command of the Bolivian Police will not allow any corruption within their ranks, we prefer to stay with 100 honest policemen. Those who do not share this criterion will logically be sent to the Attorney General’s Office or, where appropriate, to [prison],” said Bolivia Police Chief Yuri Calderón.

InSight Crime Analysis

Evidence of high-ranking police officials colluding with drug traffickers is not a new dynamic in Bolivia. It is one of the main reasons that the Andean nation has become a key player in the international drug trade, not only for cocaine production, but also as a transit country and a hub for transnational criminal groups.

Indeed, Bolivia’s former anti-narcotics czar, Rene Sanabria, was arrested in Panama in 2011 on charges he and other police officials helped move drug shipments from near the country’s southwest border with Chile to Panama and then onto the United States. In 2015, the country’s former police chief, Oscar Nina, was arrested for suspected illicit enrichment and ties to the drug trade.

SEE ALSO: Bolivia News and Profile

It’s unclear what the relationship between the recently arrested officials and the wanted drug trafficker was, but it may be related to the location of Santa Cruz department in a criminally strategic region bordering Brazil to the east and Paraguay to the south.

The department is home to one of the country’s centers for coca base production and has in the past been the scene of drug disputes driven by the criminal migration of traffickers from Brazil and Colombia. The low risk of interdiction due to a combination of police corruption and porous borders, among other factors, makes Bolivia an attractive place for the region’s drug traffickers.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

HONDURAS / 13 JUL 2016

Honduran Security Minister Julián Pacheco says the country's drug trafficking groups have begun a process of reorganization following recent arrests…

BRAZIL / 24 NOV 2015

The Brazilian state of São Paulo saw more police killings in 20 years than there were in 50 US states. In…

BOLIVIA / 26 FEB 2020

An investigation in Bolivia has found that human trafficking goes largely unchecked throughout the country, highlighting the government’s need to…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Guatemala Social Insecurity Investigation Makes Front Page News

10 DEC 2021

InSight Crime’s latest investigation into a case of corruption within Guatemala's social security agency linked to the deaths of patients with kidney disease made waves in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…