BOLIVIA: COUNTER-NARCOTICS NEWS AND TRENDS

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09LAPAZ1784 17 December 2009 No clasificado Embassy La Paz

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SUBJECT: BOLIVIA: COUNTER-NARCOTICS NEWS AND TRENDS

REF: LA PAZ 1589

1. 1. Summary and comment: Bolivian Counternarcotics (CN)
officials have voiced public concern over a number of negative
trends, including a sharp rise in the number of cocaine
laboratories seized, the GOB’s inability to track the rising number
of small aircraft used to transport drugs to neighboring countries,
the increasing presence of foreign drug cartels, and increased coca
cultivation. Despite positive interdiction and eradication
statistics (septel), local contacts believe these trends will
worsen without immediate GOB attention. GOB officials recognize
the problems, and the overwhelming victory of the ruling Movement
Toward Socialism (MAS) party (reftel) will give President Morales
additional power to shape CN policy. Still, he will face
challenges in stepping up eradication and interdiction efforts,
risking the anger of coca farmers, the core of his political base.
This is the first in a series of NAS reports on counternarcotics
trends and policy in Bolivia. End summary and comment.

Proliferation Of Cocaine Laboratories

2. 2. The Department of Cochabamba has become a center for the
production of cocaine base, according to statements made by FELCN
commanders to Bolivian press. FELCN Cochabamba Director Colonel
Elvin Baptista told reporters November 30 that FELCN destroyed 600
cocaine factories in Cochabamba during 2009. Baptista explained
that most were found in rural areas, close to rivers or other
sources of water, and used Colombian methods, which consist of
grinding up coca using electric motors, and then mixing it with
precursor chemicals in rigid plastic containers.

3. 3. FELCN director Colonel Oscar Nina said on November 12
that the Department of Santa Cruz has become a major center for
crystallization (purification) of cocaine that is processed in
other regions of Bolivia. He explained that FELCN had discovered
16 cocaine crystallization labs during recent operations, one of
which had the capacity to produce 100 kilos per day of high purity
cocaine. The cocaine is produced in Santa Cruz, and the drug is
then exported to Europe and the United States through ports in
Chile and Brazil, according to Nina. (Note: DEA estimates less than
one percent of cocaine seized in the U.S. can be chemically traced
back to Bolivia. End Note).

4. 4. FELCN reported that it destroyed an average of two labs
per day in the Department of La Paz in 2009. El Alto, the
sprawling city of mostly poor immigrants that sits on the high
plain above the city of La Paz, has become a major center of lab
activity. FELCN La Paz commander Colonel Fernando Amurrio reported
that FELCN destroyed 133 factories in El Alto during the first 10
months of the year. Many of these labs are small Colombian-style
labs hidden inside houses, making them difficult to detect. La Paz

is considered a transit point where coca is converted into cocaine
base paste and cocaine and then shipped to Santa Cruz or other
areas of Bolivia to be exported. During a series of coordinated
operations in the Department of La Paz November 20-26, FELCN seized
93 kilos of cocaine and five tons of marijuana, detained 17 people,
and seized five vehicles.

5. 5. FELCN destroyed two large-scale cocaine factories on
November 25 in the Sicaya municipality in the Department of
Cochabamba. FELCN estimated that during their three months of
operation the factories had produced 180 kilos of cocaine base
paste, and estimated that they could have produced one ton per year
if they had remained in operation. The seizures brought the total
number of seized factories in the region to 12 during the month.
Cochabamba and MAS deputy Edmundo Novillo noted that increasing
middle class involvement in coca production and ancillary
activities, in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, will require greater GOB
response.

6.

Growing Community Involvement in Production and Trafficking

7. 6. The current rise in the net amount of coca grown and
cocaine produced in Bolivia has deepened rural community
involvement in the drug trade, according to numerous NAS contacts
in FELCN and the GOB’s Directorate of Coca Production (DIGPRO
COCA). Contacts report that drug traffickers pay between $8,000 to
$10,000 to small rural communities, to buy their cooperation in
establishing cocaine factories, and then share profits with the
community to retain acceptance and trust.

8. 7. In a November 26 operation in the indigenous community
of Machak Marca de Pocona (in Cochabamba Department), FELCN
destroyed 32 Colombian-style labs but was able to make only one
arrest because the entire community fled when tipped off about the
raid. (Note: Locals in such remote areas can often easily spot
official vehicles from miles away, due to the lack of vegetation
and building development. End note.) The local FELCN commander
expressed his amazement to Bolivian reporters at the degree of
involvement of the entire community in the production activities.

CN Police Concerned About Trafficking Via Small Aircraft

9. 8. FELCN Director Colonel Oscar Nina told reporters
November 1 that Bolivia CN forces lack the capacity to detect the
high and rising number of small aircraft that transport drugs to
neighboring countries. Nina explained that FELCN lacks radar or
other technological equipment to confront the problem. Vice
Minister of Social Defense Felipe Caceres told reporters November 9
that the GOB’s "weakness" in its war against drugs was on the
country’s borders. Caceres noted that President Morales had
instructed the Defense Minister to work on acquiring additional

planes, helicopters and radars to close this gap. (Many of our
Bolivian CN contacts in the Department of Santa Cruz have told us
frequently that Bolivia’s lack of control over its airspace results
in near free rein for air trafficking. Sources tell us that 175
suspicious flights were tracked by Brazilian government mobile
radar on the border between Bolivia and Brazil in a two-month
period last fall.)

Involvement of Foreign Drug Cartels

10. 9. Bolivian press reported extensively on FELCN Commander
General Oscar Nina’s October 28 statement that Mexican drug cartels
are investing in cocaine manufacturing in Bolivia to secure
sufficient supply to satisfy market demand. Nina stated that
Mexicans employ Colombian drug mafias, which in turn hire local
drug gangs. He also stated that Colombians have taken the place of
Peruvians, who until recently dominated the Bolivian cocaine
market.

11.

12. 10. The District Prosecutor’s Office in Santa Cruz recently
expressed concern about the presence of foreign assassins who are
hired by drug traffickers to commit murders in Bolivia.
Anti-corruption Special Prosecutor Alex Oswaldo Cespedes told
reporters November 16 that seven people had been killed in Santa
Cruz over the preceding 59 days, and that he believed foreign
assassins ("sicarios") bore responsibility. Cespedes said that a
major increase in drug trafficking activities in the city had made
conditions ripe for the creation of drug trafficking organizations.
The commander of Bolivia’s Special Anti-Crime Police Force, Colonel
Miguel Gonzalez, said it is too early to conclude that foreign
assassins were involved.

Increase in Coca Cultivation

13. 11. The GOB announced December 9 that coca cultivation had
increased 6% in 2009 compared to the prior year, or by roughly
1,830 hectares. Vice Minister of Social Defense Felipe Caceres
told NAS Director that the two main national parks have more than
2,000 hectares of illegal coca - 1,081 hectares in Isiboro-Secure
and 972 hectares in Carrasco. He said the GOB knows it will have
to resort to forced eradication in 2010, noting that many cocaleros
do not respect the limits on cultivation set by the GOB.

Coca Union Says Much Coca Circumvents Legal Markets

14. 12. The Yungas Coca Producers’ Association (ADEPCOCA), the
union formed by 30,000 coca growers from twelve provinces of Los
Yungas, released a report on November 10 that stated that of the
16,127 metric tons of coca leaf grown annually in the Yungas, only

4,887 metric tons (30 percent) arrives at the legal coca market in
Villa Fatima in La Paz. The destination of the remaining 11,240
metric tons is unknown, according to the report. The ADEPCOCA
report also stated that of the 54,000 metric tons of coca grown
nationwide each year, only 21,778 metric tons (40 percent) reaches
the two legally sanctioned markets — Villa Fatima in La Paz and
Sacaba in Cochabamba.

Lobbying For A New Legal Coca Marketplace

15. 13. Coca growers of the Munecas Province in the Department of
La Paz presented to Congress a draft bill to create a new legal
coca market in the city of El Alto, next to La Paz, and branches in
La Paz and Cochabamba. Currently, there are two legal markets -
Villa Fatima in Los Yungas and Sacaba in Cochabamba.

Bolivians Polled On Views Of Coca Situation

16. 14. Equipos Mori conducted a November poll in Bolivia’s nine
departments that found:

* 60% of Bolivians believe that coca cultivation has
increased since Evo Morales became President;

* 75% believe coca eradication should continue;

* 61% believe that there should be additional government
control over coca production; and

* 55% believe the state should control production and
commercialization of coca.

17. 15. Comment: It may not be surprising that many Bolivians are
concerned about coca expansion and support eradication. Those
directly involved in coca production are a relatively small, but
influential, percentage of the overall Bolivian population. There
are approximately 44,000 families in the Chapare (an average of
five people per family) that are directly involved in growing coca,
and 26,000 families in the Yungas (an average of four people per
family). The total Bolivian population is approximately 9 million.

18.
Creamer