Ex-Bolivian Anti-Drug Chief Pleads Guilty in Miami

By Dialogo
June 28, 2011

A former top Bolivian anti-drug official pleaded guilty on 23 June to charges of conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States in a case that has proved a major embarrassment for Bolivia’s President Evo Morales.

Retired General Rene Sanabria is a former head of Bolivia’s leading counternarcotics unit. The U.S. attorney’s office in Miami said he was director of an anti-drugs intelligence unit attached to Bolivia’s Interior Ministry when he was arrested in February in Panama and deported to Miami.

He had faced a life sentence if found guilty in a trial. Sentencing was set for September 2.

U.S. prosecutors accuse Sanabria of providing safe passage for cocaine shipments from Bolivia, the world’s No. 3 producer, to the United States through neighboring Chile.

Sanabria pleaded guilty along with an associate, Marcelo Foronda, Sanabria’s lawyer, Sabrina Puglisi, said.

Sanabria’s arrest followed a sting operation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

According to American officials, a test shipment was arranged last year and a group led by Foronda shipped up to 144 kilograms of cocaine to Miami hidden in a cargo container containing zinc rocks.

The container traveled overland from Bolivia to a Chilean port, the officials said.

The case triggered political shock waves in Bolivia and led Morales, a leftist, to order a shake-up of his top security officials earlier this year.

A vocal U.S. critic, Morales expelled the DEA from Bolivia in 2008, accusing its agents of spying and conspiring against his government.

Morales, a former coca leaf farmer leader, says he opposes cocaine trafficking but supports the harvesting of the leaf, which Bolivians use in rituals and chew for its medical and nutritional properties.

Morales frequently promotes coca’s health benefits and encourages legal uses for its leaves, including promoting a new energy drink produced in Bolivia.

But Washington has accused him of not doing enough to fight drug traffickers, and the United Nations has said coca growing eventually used in drug production has expanded in recent years.

It’s good to consider this article, but its also good to make some clarifications, the person in question is not a soldier, but a policemen who was carrying out intelligence services for Morales’s government, from whom today we only hear a sequence of lamentations against Chile and the USA, due to something that surely his collaborators are advising him about; his security. For that reason his trips abroad have been suspended along with the trips of his closer collaborators. There is no solution; the nation is facing a possible Bolivarian drug state of great proportions that is beginning to affect the security of its neighbors. That’s why we’re asking for help from international diplomatists. Apparently he had forgotten about his demagogic song of sovereignty and anti-imperialism; his cry of battle in the Chapar was always “Viva la coca, gringos die”, now he is changing directions Why? What is he afraid of? If there is fear, it is because his government is compromised by drug trafficking… I think it is time to be truefull about the presence of FARC and its involvement in drug trafficking, the presence of Libyans and other members of Brazilian shacks for example, or maybe the presence of Mexican cartels like the Zetas. Anyway, the diplomatic turn over is not casual, as neither the fear of several compatriots which say that history will repeat itself the same as for Noriega in Panama. I want to believe that all will be clear soon and Bolivia will be the same as before, peaceful, cordial, calm and especially gentle. Bolivians are now aware of the direction that the denominated plural government of the 21st century is taking. It is not flattering to live in anxiety and uncertainty and I believe that our Chilean brothers have already given the camapanzo.