Bolivia: Drug Traffickers Now Need Less Coca to Produce Cocaine

By Dialogo
December 16, 2011

The more efficient use of chemicals has enabled Bolivian drug traffickers to use less coca for the same amount of cocaine, the representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), César Guedes, said in an interview with AFP.

“Production has become more sophisticated in the last three years. Much less coca is now needed to produce the same amount of cocaine. We’re talking about a doubling of the yield,” the official stated.

He explained that this is due to the fact that the drug traffickers “are using more efficient chemical precursors that are capable of more intensely extracting the alkaloid from the coca.”

It is a matter of “chemical technology that was not developed for coca, but rather for other activities such as the pharmaceutical or petrochemical industries, but that is being applied in drug trafficking,” where its effects are maximized.

“Coca is not a drug, but its process of transformation is very simple. Very little needs to be added to convert it into a narcotic,” Guedes emphasized.

Manufacturing cocaine requires a mix of chemicals, such as sulfuric acid, acetone, gasoline, diesel, sodium carbonate, and potassium permanganate, which are used in different phases, such as obtaining base paste and then cocaine hydrochloride.

Bolivian authorities have indicated that drug traffickers have begun to use ground coca and cement to manufacture drugs.

Guedes indicated that it is not yet possible to specify the yield of the new chemical procedures, although there is certainty that the reagents are being optimized in order to produce drugs with a smaller amount of the ancient plant.

The use of coca in its natural state for mastication is legal in Bolivia.