Brazil’s Economic Prosperity Attracts Bolivian Cocaine
By Dialogo December 13, 2011
More than 50 percent of the cocaine processed in Bolivia is destined for Brazil, where the number of consumers has noticeably increased due to the economic prosperity of recent years, according to an investigation by the daily Valor, published on December 12.
“In the last ten years, Brazil has moved from being a transit country to being a consumption country” for cocaine, said Murilo Vieira, a diplomatic official at the Brazilian embassy in La Paz.
The country is suffering “the collateral effects” of having raised 30 million people out of poverty who became middle-class consumers over the last decade, Vieira added.
“The so-called new middle class acquired access to cocaine and to a relatively cheap drug, crack” (a cocaine product), the diplomat stated.
As a consequence of the increased consumption in Brazil, “Colombian, Mexican, Peruvian, and Brazilian mafias began to establish themselves in Bolivia in order to export those drugs” to Brazilian territory, according to Valor.
“Between around 60 and 80 percent of Bolivian cocaine is destined for the Brazilian market, estimated at around 900,000 users,” which would make the country the third-largest consumer of the drug, behind the United States and the European Union, the newspaper said.
Control of drug-trafficking routes has unleashed a struggle among mafia groups in Bolivia, “at times violent, at times not so violent, but involving all” the organizations, Douglas Farah, a researcher at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in the United States said.
Bolivia, the world’s third-largest cocaine producer after Peru and Colombia, according to the UN, signed an agreement with Brazil at the beginning of the year to fight drug trafficking using Brazilian unmanned planes.
Early in December, the Brazilian government acknowledged that it is facing a “crack epidemic” due to the increased consumption of the substance and announced an offensive combining medical care for users and a hard line against trafficking at the borders.
In 2010, the Brazilian Federal Police seized almost 28 tons of cocaine (paste, hydrochloride, and crack) and 154 tons of marijuana. In 2011, they had seized 15 tons of cocaine and 87 of marijuana as of August, a Federal Police spokesperson told AFP.