Bolivia, the paradise for drug traffickers

 Hugo Marcelo Balderrama

In his book, What my father never told me, Juan Pablo Escobar ―the boss’s son― recounts how his father’s political career ended because of a publication in the newspaper El Espectador. In addition, that his confrontation with Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla was the beginning of one of the most violent stages in the history of Colombia. Well, Escobar, who at the time was already a powerful drug trafficker, could not miss the opportunity to turn his country into a narco-state, even if rivers of blood had to flow to complete his plan.

Likewise, he tells us that many cartel bosses were not interested in ideological discussions, but much more practical things, including women, power and money. That is why the narcodollars did not distinguish between left or right. The bigwigs knew they could buy off people on both sides.

I completely agree with Juan Pablo Escobar. However, it is undeniable that in the last forty years it was Fidel Castro and his whole group of henchmen who implanted drug dictatorships in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia. Those regimes, as soon as they came to power, destroyed all institutions, and turned their countries into great havens for illicit businesses.

In this regard, Franco Rojas Sagárnaga, general manager of the AMLC Group and specialist in Prevention of Money Laundering, in an interview with the digital newspaper, explained the following:

Bolivia has not yet been able to develop true money laundering prevention and control mechanisms. Added to this is the fact that Bolivia is a country that produces cocaine and marijuana and that its geographical location also makes it a transit country for drugs and contraband, mainly from Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Peru.

Likewise, the Colombian group Insight Crime (journalists specializing in organized crime) reported that Colombian drug traffickers with national arrest warrants can enter Bolivia without fear of being arrested. Since Bolivia would not have information on national arrest warrants, but only on international warrants registered with Interpol.

Similarly, they revealed that the First Command of the Capital – one of the most dangerous cartels in Brazil and the world – uses the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra to launder money from drug trafficking. The “investments” consist of jewelry, medical clinics, restaurants, and farms.

The Comando Vermelho – the PCC’s main rival – has also set its sights on Santa Cruz, and intends to take a cut of the drug trafficking that is concentrated there. Hence, in the Santa Cruz city, insecurity has skyrocketed, as both gangs turned it into a war zone, which seems to have no end.

On the other hand, statistics from the Special Force to Fight Crime in La Paz reveal that there are at least three organizations dedicated to lending dollars to merchants under the drop-by-drop system. The credits have the sole purpose of laundering money from illegal activities. The amounts collected in La Paz, Yacuiba and Cochabamba are remitted to the bosses in Santa Cruz.

For Joseph Humire (specialist in security and transnational crime) illegal drugs have become the main source of financing for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah. In an interview with the newspaper, the specialist explained that Iran extended its influence throughout the region, Bolivia included, since the early 1990s. Obviously, in their expansionist zeal they did not hesitate for a second to ally themselves with criminal groups such as the PCC or the Sao Paulo Forum.

All in all, it should not surprise us that Bolivia has become a paradise for drug traffickers and, at the same time, a hell for honest people.

“The opinions published here are the sole responsibility of their author.”