Bolivia’s FELCN Combats Drug Traffickers in the Amazon Region

By Dialogo
November 21, 2014




Bolivia’s Special Force in the War on Drugs (FELCN) is intensifying security operations –“fighting organizations of organized crime throughout Bolivia’s Amazon,” in the words of FELCN chief Mario Centellas.

Consequently, they’ve registered several successful operations in the region in recent months.

For example, the FELCN seized a model C-210 G Cessna aircraft and 102 kilograms of cocaine in the Department of Beni on October 12 .
The aircraft was registered in Paraguay.

During that operation they also arrested four suspects: Paraguayan national Wilder David, Brazilian national Joao Carlos L.C.; Peruvian national José V.S.; and Gary R.A., a Bolivian national. Their drug ring was storing the cocaine, which they had brought into Bolivia from Perú, at a ranch; from there, they planned on transporting it to Paraguay, Brazil, and Europe. Before the security operation broke up the scheme, drug gang pilots were transporting cocaine in four to six flights a day, according to La Prensa.


Successful anti-drug operations


Among other missions, FELCN members perform daily patrols to locate and destroy clandestine drug labs, in addition to aerial operations and drug seizures.

They’ve been busy. From January through October 31, of this year, antinarcotic agents with the FELCN have performed 11,286 operations in the Amazon region and throughout the country. During that time they’ve detained 2,920 people suspected of drug trafficking activities, eradicated 9,457 hectares of coca crops and seized 175 tons of drugs. That’s up from the 118 tons of drugs throughout 2013.

The FELCN and other security forces focus much of their attention on three key areas where organized crime groups transport drugs from Perú into Bolivia: San Martin, Puno, and VRAEM regions. These are areas where drug traffickers operate production centers and process cocaine base paste, which they later refine in the country’s northern regions.

Nevertheless, their efforts span the whole of Bolivia, where there were 762 active gangs in 2013 according to the National Public Safety Observatory. Most of those criminal organizations are concentrated in the Departments of La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba; some are street gangs, while others are larger and more sophisticated organized crime groups.

Some of those groups are Colombian. In Bolivia, Colombian drug traffickers can produce a kilo of high-quality cocaine from Peruvian base for less than US$2,000. That same kilo in Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo is worth up to US $8,000. Various Colombian drug trafficking groups – as well as groups from Brazil – operate in remote areas of the Amazon region, where they produce and transport significant quantities of drugs, weapons, and also engage in human trafficking.

Cooperation and technology


Even as criminal organizations work across Bolivia’s borders, Bolivia is fighting back by cooperating with other countries in the region.

For example, in joint operations, the FELCN and Peruvian security forces seized 16 aircraft from January to mid-November. Meanwhile, Colombian and Brazilian security forces have conducted successful security operations to protect their borders, sometimes using advanced technologies such as aerial surveillance.

Such technologies, while “expensive at the outset, can lead to large savings for the state in the medium term," said Carlos Mendoza Mora, a security consultant with Strategic Project Consulting, a private firm in Mexico City. He added that focusing the FELCN’s efforts in border regions is an effective strategy, which provides “viability and security” to civilians in those areas.



Bolivia’s Special Force in the War on Drugs (FELCN) is intensifying security operations –“fighting organizations of organized crime throughout Bolivia’s Amazon,” in the words of FELCN chief Mario Centellas.

Consequently, they’ve registered several successful operations in the region in recent months.

For example, the FELCN seized a model C-210 G Cessna aircraft and 102 kilograms of cocaine in the Department of Beni on October 12 .
The aircraft was registered in Paraguay.

During that operation they also arrested four suspects: Paraguayan national Wilder David, Brazilian national Joao Carlos L.C.; Peruvian national José V.S.; and Gary R.A., a Bolivian national. Their drug ring was storing the cocaine, which they had brought into Bolivia from Perú, at a ranch; from there, they planned on transporting it to Paraguay, Brazil, and Europe. Before the security operation broke up the scheme, drug gang pilots were transporting cocaine in four to six flights a day, according to La Prensa.


Successful anti-drug operations


Among other missions, FELCN members perform daily patrols to locate and destroy clandestine drug labs, in addition to aerial operations and drug seizures.

They’ve been busy. From January through October 31, of this year, antinarcotic agents with the FELCN have performed 11,286 operations in the Amazon region and throughout the country. During that time they’ve detained 2,920 people suspected of drug trafficking activities, eradicated 9,457 hectares of coca crops and seized 175 tons of drugs. That’s up from the 118 tons of drugs throughout 2013.

The FELCN and other security forces focus much of their attention on three key areas where organized crime groups transport drugs from Perú into Bolivia: San Martin, Puno, and VRAEM regions. These are areas where drug traffickers operate production centers and process cocaine base paste, which they later refine in the country’s northern regions.

Nevertheless, their efforts span the whole of Bolivia, where there were 762 active gangs in 2013 according to the National Public Safety Observatory. Most of those criminal organizations are concentrated in the Departments of La Paz, Santa Cruz, and Cochabamba; some are street gangs, while others are larger and more sophisticated organized crime groups.

Some of those groups are Colombian. In Bolivia, Colombian drug traffickers can produce a kilo of high-quality cocaine from Peruvian base for less than US$2,000. That same kilo in Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo is worth up to US $8,000. Various Colombian drug trafficking groups – as well as groups from Brazil – operate in remote areas of the Amazon region, where they produce and transport significant quantities of drugs, weapons, and also engage in human trafficking.

Cooperation and technology


Even as criminal organizations work across Bolivia’s borders, Bolivia is fighting back by cooperating with other countries in the region.

For example, in joint operations, the FELCN and Peruvian security forces seized 16 aircraft from January to mid-November. Meanwhile, Colombian and Brazilian security forces have conducted successful security operations to protect their borders, sometimes using advanced technologies such as aerial surveillance.

Such technologies, while “expensive at the outset, can lead to large savings for the state in the medium term," said Carlos Mendoza Mora, a security consultant with Strategic Project Consulting, a private firm in Mexico City. He added that focusing the FELCN’s efforts in border regions is an effective strategy, which provides “viability and security” to civilians in those areas.
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