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Bolivia - Drugs

Bolivia is the world's third largest cocaine producer and a significant transit zone for Peruvian-origin cocaine. Existing reports indicate that most Bolivian-origin cocaine exports flow to other Latin American countries, especially Brazil, for domestic consumption or onward transit to West Africa and Europe. U. S. government surveys estimate that approximately one percent of the cocaine seized in the United States and submitted for testing originates from Bolivia.

On September 15, 2011, the President of the United States determined for the fourth consecutive year that the Government of Bolivia “failed demonstrably” to make sufficient efforts to meet its obligations under counternarcotics (CN) conventions. This Presidential determination was based, in part, on evidence that Bolivia had yet to reverse the increases in net coca cultivation of the past several years, although in 2010 it appeared that production had stabilized; however, without the ability to conduct yield studies previously conducted by the Drug enforcement Administration (DEA), there is no assurance that production has not risen. The 2010 U.S. government estimate of pure cocaine production potential remained at the 2008-2009 levels of 195 metric tons, 70 percent higher than in 2006, and potential export quality cocaine production at 240 metric tons

The National Drug Control Council, chaired by the Ministry of Government, is the Bolivian government’s central policymaking body for CN. The mandate of Vice Ministry for Social Defense's (VMSD) is to combat drug trafficking, regulate coca production, and advance coca eradication and drug prevention and rehabilitation. The Special Counternarcotics Police Force (FELCN) comprised of approximately 1,700 personnel, an increase from 1,500 personnel in 2010, reports to the VMSD. The Joint Eradication Task Force conducts coca eradication with approximately 2,300 military, police and civilian personnel, an increase of 300 since 2010.

Bolivian President Evo Morales remains the president of the coca growers’ federation in the Chapare region of Bolivia, one of the two major coca growing areas in Bolivia. His administration maintains a "social control" policy for illicit coca eradication in which the Bolivian government negotiates with coca growers to obtain their consent for eradication. In 2011, Bolivia intensified coca eradication efforts, reporting the eradication of more than 10,000 hectares for the first time since 2002, even as eradication forces continued to meet resistance from coca growers. However, illegal coca cultivation for drug production remains high, and the Bolivian government maintains inadequate controls to prevent diversion of licit coca to illicit cocaine production.

The Government of Bolivia’s ability to identify, investigate and dismantle drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and follow actionable law enforcement leads developed in Bolivia remains diminished following the expulsion of all U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) personnel from Bolivia in January 2008. Colombian, Brazilian, Peruvian and other foreign nationals in Bolivia engage in financing, producing and exporting drugs and laundering drug proceeds. The Bolivian government denies that foreign drug cartels are present on Bolivian soil.

According to the Latin American Center of Scientific Investigation (CELIN), illegal drug use is a growing problem in Bolivia.

Bolivia's 2011-2015 counternarcotics plan is unpublished. Felipe Caceres, the Vice Minister of Social Defense stated that the plan will enact new legislation to increase licit national coca cultivation levels from 12,000 to 20,000 hectares. (The Government of Bolivia passed Law 1008 in 1988 permitting coca cultivation on 12,000 hectares in the traditional coca growing area of the Yungas). The recently proposed legislation was delayed throughout 2011 pending release of a European Union-funded study on traditional coca consumption originally scheduled for completion in 2005.

In 2010, the Government of Bolivia prepared legislation to replace existing laws affecting wiretaps, money laundering and asset forfeitures, drawing on technical assistance provided by the United States in 2008. These bills remained under review in a Bolivian congressional committee and were not enacted in 2011.

The Bolivian government budgeted $20 million in 2011 for the second consecutive year for CN operations through the Executing Unit for the Fight against Narcotics (UELICN) under the Ministry of Government. UELICN took over responsibility for some expenses as routine operational support was reduced in 2011.

FELCN’s Director General stated that its 2011 operations focused on money laundering cases and leads from law enforcement counterparts from neighboring countries. Bolivia continued to seek counternarcotics support from other countries, including law enforcement cooperation, especially with Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. In 2011, Bolivia and Brazil signed the third two-year law enforcement cooperation agreement and an agreement between their defense ministries on border security. Bolivia and Brazil’s multiagency commission on drugs met for the seventh time to continue work on implementing its plan of action.

The 2010 U. S. government coca cultivation estimate for Bolivia of 34,500 hectares was slightly lower than the 2009 estimate of 35,000 hectares. UNODC surveys estimated 31,000 hectares of cultivation for 2010, a slight increase over its 2009 estimate of 30,900 hectares. The Government of Bolivia, expected the results to show a net decrease in coca cultivation after increased eradication at the end of 2010, and delayed publication of the UNODC's 2010 coca survey for several months to review the data. The Bolivian government has stated its intention to reduce net coca cultivation to 20,000 hectares by 2015 or earlier.

The Bolivian government reported eradication of over 10,509 hectares of coca in 2011, a significant increase over the 8,200 the government reported eradicated in 2010, and meeting President Morales' goal of 10,000 hectares. Success was due, in part to strict adherence to weekly targets and accepting U. S. government recommendations aimed at greater efficiency.

During 2011, there was evidence of decreased governmental tolerance of illegal coca cultivation, in particular in the national parks, but also in the traditional coca growing regions of the Yungas and the Chapare. The government took significant steps to control coca production in the Chapare. Under an agreement with the Bolivian government, Chapare federations of coca growers began implementing a “coca zero” policy which pressured growers to comply with the one-cato rule. In October 2003, the Government of Bolivia and Chapare coca producers signed an agreement legalizing a “cato” (40 x 40 sqm) of cultivation per family in the Chapare. Because many farmers were growing two or more catos, the Federations have since implemented an “auto-control” policy whereby growers voluntarily eradicate coca in excess of one cato. The Bolivian government began eradicating replanted coca immediately rather than waiting two to three years to eradicate in the same areas. The European Union-funded Social Control Project completed a biometric registration of Coca Grower Federation members in the Chapare, adding impetus to social control efforts there.

Although Bolivia’s eradication program is meeting its stated targets, when taken as a whole, Bolivia's eradication and interdiction results have not been sufficient to adequately reverse high coca cultivation and cocaine production levels. Bolivia's policy to consider 20,000 hectares of coca cultivation as licit, its intention to enact legislation to legalize the entire 20,000 hectares, and its withdrawal from the 1961 Convention contribute to the international view that Bolivia's efforts to meet its international CN obligations were insufficient.

Bolivia's ability to interdict drugs and major traffickers has diminished following its announcement in 2008 to expel U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) personnel, while the country's performance in targeting and dismantling foreign drug trafficker organizations operating in Bolivia has improved marginally in recent years. This achievement is through Bolivia's national efforts and cooperation with neighboring countries, most notably Brazil. Expelling DEA has seriously harmed Bolivia's counternarcotics capability, especially in regard to interdiction. Taken as a whole, eradication and interdiction results have not been adequate to compete with the rising drug trends that have brought Bolivia back to high coca cultivation and cocaine production levels.

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Page last modified: 20-12-2012 17:58:39 ZULU