Bolivia’s FELCN has Seized 14.4 Tons of Cocaine in 2015

Bolivia’s FELCN has Seized 14.4 Tons of Cocaine in 2015

By Dialogo
August 20, 2015

Between January and the end of July, Bolivia's Special Force against Drug Trafficking (FELCN) seized 14.4 tons of cocaine and destroyed more than 1,800 small-scale drug factories while conducting an average of 31 operations daily.

“All of these operations resulted in the arrest of 1,975 suspects, 1,850 of whom were Bolivian nationals while 125 were foreigners,” FELCN Director Santiago Delgadillo said during celebrations for FELCN’s 28th anniversary on July 27 at the National Police Academy (ANAPOL) in La Paz.

By comparison, FELCN seized 13.3 tons of cocaine, eradicated 3,033 small-scale drug factories, and captured 1,757 suspects during the first six months of 2014.

Delgadillo, who attended the anniversary ceremony along with several government authorities, said 1,752 drug factories, 42 crystal methamphetamine labs, and 37 cocaine recycling labs were destroyed in the year's first seven months. Agents also confiscated an estimated $16.7 million in items, including vehicles, cash, and property, in addition to 24 suspected narco-planes.

Shutting down the air corridor

The confiscation of airplanes is intended to shut down the air corridor for the trafficking of controlled substances from Peru to Bolivia, according to Vice Minister Cáceres.

“Bolivia continues to be used for transit,” he said during a media conference on May 11, pointing out the cocaine comes from Peru's Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley (VRAEM) region.

Bolivia has intensified its air, ground, and river operations through fixed and mobile check points, particularly in airports and border zones by working with Peru's Drug Enforcement Directorate (DIRANDRO).

Bolivia also has made advances in reducing the area cultivated for illegal crops. From 2012-2013, the area used to cultivate coca leaves decreased 9 percent from 25,300 hectares to 23,000 hectares – the smallest area of hectares cultivated since 2002, according to the World Drug Report 2015
, published by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in June of this year.

The pressure against narco-planes and the eradication of crops have caused shifts in the regional drug map.

“Slowly but surely, there has been a gradual displacement of crops in the VREAM and Alto Huallaga towards the Peruvian department of Loreto, on the border with Ecuador, which is quite far from the current cocaine production zone in Peru,” security analyst Norberto Emmerich said. “Presumably, this displacement will have a positive effect on decreasing the Peru-Bolivia shipping route.”

Drug-trafficking clans

Drug trafficking in Bolivia doesn't involve large, organized groups, according to FELCN.

“There are no drug trafficking organizations [in Bolivia],” FELCN Social Communications Service told Diálogo
. “In most cases, it is clans or individuals working in this illegal activity.”

FELCN has reported that approximately only about 10 percent of suspects detained in connection to drug trafficking are foreigners, with Colombians, Peruvians, and Brazilians topping the list of those prosecuted under Law 1008 on Coca and Controlled Substances, according to the Bolivian Information Agency (ABI).

Principle operations

The principle operations conducted by FELCN in the last few months include:

Operation Cañaveral

Seized: 124 kilograms of cocaine

When: January 5, 2015

Where: Villa Rosario, province of Santa Cruz

Assets confiscated: Two FAL rifles, a shotgun, and a pick-up truck

Operation El Montero

Seized: 212 kilograms of cocaine

When: January 28, 2015

Where: Montero, department of Santa Cruz

Arrested: 1 Bolivian national

Assets confiscated: 1 car

Operation Rey Babel

Seized: 5,880 kilograms of cocaine

When: March 4, 2015

Where: Estrada La Guardia km 9, department of Santa Cruz

Arrested: 1 Bolivian and 2 Ecuadorean nationals

Operation Cazador

Seized: 5.4 kilograms of cocaine

When: June 2-4, 2015

Where: San Joaquín, department of Beni

Arrested: 5 Bolivian, 2 Peruvian, and 1 Brazilian national

Assets confiscated: 6 pick-up trucks, 1 truck, 1 moped, 2 planes, 8 cell phones, 6 firearms

Continued vigilance

Security authorities anticipate more actions like these in the next few months.

“The Special Force in the War on Drugs will continue to work to protect and benefit society, in order to serve our country with dignity and sovereignty,” FELCN said in a statement.