Evo Morales Announces Hard Line Against Drug Trafficking in Bolivia

By Dialogo
March 07, 2011

On 3 March, Bolivian President Evo Morales threatened legal proceedings against those involved with drug trafficking, with no exceptions, after his former head of the fight against drugs was extradited to the United States following his arrest in Panama, allegedly trafficking cocaine.

“Whoever gets mixed up with drug trafficking, whether civilian, military, police, member of the MAS (the ruling party), union leader, or a vice minister, minister, he has to be judged in the Bolivian courts,” Morales indicated at a public military event.

Along the same lines, he revealed that thirty-eight active-duty police officers are in jail due to ties to drug shipments.

“Up to now, we have thirty-eight police officers who were on active duty in jail for drug trafficking,” he said.

After condemning the alleged involvement with drug trafficking by his former director of the fight against drugs from 2007 to 2009, Gen. René Sanabria, Morales said that “here (in his administration) nothing is forgiven.”

Even if Sanabria, until now head of an Interior Ministry intelligence unit, was involved with drugs, “this doesn’t mean that the entire institution of the Bolivian police is implicated in drug trafficking, or the entire Bolivian state,” he noted.

Sanabria entered a not-guilty plea in a Miami court on charges of trafficking 144 kilograms of drugs to the United States from a Chilean port.

“My client was not arrested in possession of cocaine,” his lawyer, Angel Mercado, said in La Paz. “Not a single gram of drugs was found on him, neither in Panama nor in Bolivia,” he affirmed, speaking to reporters.

Sanabria was detained in Panama the last week in February and subsequently extradited by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to the United States, where a judge in Miami had issued an international arrest warrant for the Bolivian police officer in December, without La Paz being informed.

Right before his arrest, General Sanabria led an “intelligence and counterintelligence” unit in the fight against drug trafficking: the Intelligence and Information Generation Center (CIGEIN), dismantled following the police chief’s detention.

Bolivia expelled the DEA in late 2008 for political reasons, and Morales reiterated on Thursday that the U.S. agency will not operate in the country again while he remains president.