The Bolivian Police Special Tactical Action Group carried out a mega-operation in an airfield in the municipality of Cotoca, Santa Cruz de la Sierra department. Authorities arrested 38 people (36 men and two women), seized 66 aircraft, and locked 29 hangars.
Police conducted the raid March 27, at the Mondaca airport, Bolivian newspaper El Deber reported. Bolivian Government Minister Eduardo del Castillo said that some of the aircraft did not have registrations, others had cloned ones. “The planes were also found without seats, so it is presumed that they were used to transport ‘Avgas’ [aviation fuel] to other clandestine airstrips or also to traffic controlled substances,” Del Castillo said.
In addition, authorities also seized barrels with precursors for the manufacture of drugs, five vehicles, eight firearms, and satellite communication equipment. People who were caught on the scene shot at the police, El Deber reported.
Three of the 38 captured, identified as Grover Soleto Guzmán, Ulises Ruiz Dayer, and Brazilian López Da Silva Junior have drug trafficking charges pending against them, Bolivia Press reported.
Del Castillo told Bolivian news site Página 7, that at the end of 2019 the airport had already been raided, in which occasion authorities seized seven airplanes and chemical precursors for drugs. The investigation, however, was halted by Colonel Maximiliano Dávila, then the national anti-narcotics authority. Col. Dávila is currently serving time for narcotrafficking in San Pedro de La Paz.
Col. Dávila allegedly collaborated with a criminal organization that refined cocaine in Bolivia, which was produced in neighboring countries, and exported it to various destinations. He also used his position and connections to gain access to Bolivian airfields, and arranged protection for narcotraffickers, German broadcaster DW reported in January.