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Viewing cable 09LAPAZ1784, BOLIVIA: COUNTER-NARCOTICS NEWS AND TRENDS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09LAPAZ1784 2009-12-17 21:09 2010-12-03 21:09 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy La Paz
VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLP #1784/01 3512151
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 172150Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0260
INFO RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/DIRJIATF SOUTH
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/NATIONAL DRUG INTELLIGENCE CENTER JOHNSTOWN PA
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF STATE AIR WING PATRICK AFB FL
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO 0023
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS LA PAZ 001784 

SIPDIS 
STATE PASS TO CNC LINEAR WASHINGTON DC 
JIATF SOUTH FOR USCINCSO MIAMI FL//SCJ2/SCJ3/SCJ5/SCFA 
DEPT FOR INL, WHA/PPC, WHA/AND 
USAID FOR LAC/SA 
JUSTICE FOR OIA, AFMLA AND NDDS 
CUSTOMS FOR LA OPS, INTELLIGENCE 
DEA FOR OEL 

E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: SNAR BL KJUS PHUM
SUBJECT: BOLIVIA: COUNTER-NARCOTICS NEWS AND TRENDS 

REF: LA PAZ 1589 

1. 1. Summary and comment: Bolivian Counternarcotics (CN) 
officials have voiced public concern over a number of negative 
trends, including a sharp rise in the number of cocaine 
laboratories seized, the GOB's inability to track the rising number 
of small aircraft used to transport drugs to neighboring countries, 
the increasing presence of foreign drug cartels, and increased coca 
cultivation. Despite positive interdiction and eradication 
statistics (septel), local contacts believe these trends will 
worsen without immediate GOB attention. GOB officials recognize 
the problems, and the overwhelming victory of the ruling Movement 
Toward Socialism (MAS) party (reftel) will give President Morales 
additional power to shape CN policy. Still, he will face 
challenges in stepping up eradication and interdiction efforts, 
risking the anger of coca farmers, the core of his political base. 
This is the first in a series of NAS reports on counternarcotics 
trends and policy in Bolivia. End summary and comment. 



Proliferation Of Cocaine Laboratories 



2. 2. The Department of Cochabamba has become a center for the 
production of cocaine base, according to statements made by FELCN 
commanders to Bolivian press. FELCN Cochabamba Director Colonel 
Elvin Baptista told reporters November 30 that FELCN destroyed 600 
cocaine factories in Cochabamba during 2009. Baptista explained 
that most were found in rural areas, close to rivers or other 
sources of water, and used Colombian methods, which consist of 
grinding up coca using electric motors, and then mixing it with 
precursor chemicals in rigid plastic containers. 



3. 3. FELCN director Colonel Oscar Nina said on November 12 
that the Department of Santa Cruz has become a major center for 
crystallization (purification) of cocaine that is processed in 
other regions of Bolivia. He explained that FELCN had discovered 
16 cocaine crystallization labs during recent operations, one of 
which had the capacity to produce 100 kilos per day of high purity 
cocaine. The cocaine is produced in Santa Cruz, and the drug is 
then exported to Europe and the United States through ports in 
Chile and Brazil, according to Nina. (Note: DEA estimates less than 
one percent of cocaine seized in the U.S. can be chemically traced 
back to Bolivia. End Note). 



4. 4. FELCN reported that it destroyed an average of two labs 
per day in the Department of La Paz in 2009. El Alto, the 
sprawling city of mostly poor immigrants that sits on the high 
plain above the city of La Paz, has become a major center of lab 
activity. FELCN La Paz commander Colonel Fernando Amurrio reported 
that FELCN destroyed 133 factories in El Alto during the first 10 
months of the year. Many of these labs are small Colombian-style 
labs hidden inside houses, making them difficult to detect. La Paz 

is considered a transit point where coca is converted into cocaine 
base paste and cocaine and then shipped to Santa Cruz or other 
areas of Bolivia to be exported. During a series of coordinated 
operations in the Department of La Paz November 20-26, FELCN seized 
93 kilos of cocaine and five tons of marijuana, detained 17 people, 
and seized five vehicles. 



5. 5. FELCN destroyed two large-scale cocaine factories on 
November 25 in the Sicaya municipality in the Department of 
Cochabamba. FELCN estimated that during their three months of 
operation the factories had produced 180 kilos of cocaine base 
paste, and estimated that they could have produced one ton per year 
if they had remained in operation. The seizures brought the total 
number of seized factories in the region to 12 during the month. 
Cochabamba and MAS deputy Edmundo Novillo noted that increasing 
middle class involvement in coca production and ancillary 
activities, in Cochabamba and Santa Cruz, will require greater GOB 
response. 

6. 

Growing Community Involvement in Production and Trafficking 



7. 6. The current rise in the net amount of coca grown and 
cocaine produced in Bolivia has deepened rural community 
involvement in the drug trade, according to numerous NAS contacts 
in FELCN and the GOB's Directorate of Coca Production (DIGPRO 
COCA). Contacts report that drug traffickers pay between $8,000 to 
$10,000 to small rural communities, to buy their cooperation in 
establishing cocaine factories, and then share profits with the 
community to retain acceptance and trust. 



8. 7. In a November 26 operation in the indigenous community 
of Machak Marca de Pocona (in Cochabamba Department), FELCN 
destroyed 32 Colombian-style labs but was able to make only one 
arrest because the entire community fled when tipped off about the 
raid. (Note: Locals in such remote areas can often easily spot 
official vehicles from miles away, due to the lack of vegetation 
and building development. End note.) The local FELCN commander 
expressed his amazement to Bolivian reporters at the degree of 
involvement of the entire community in the production activities. 



CN Police Concerned About Trafficking Via Small Aircraft 



9. 8. FELCN Director Colonel Oscar Nina told reporters 
November 1 that Bolivia CN forces lack the capacity to detect the 
high and rising number of small aircraft that transport drugs to 
neighboring countries. Nina explained that FELCN lacks radar or 
other technological equipment to confront the problem. Vice 
Minister of Social Defense Felipe Caceres told reporters November 9 
that the GOB's "weakness" in its war against drugs was on the 
country's borders. Caceres noted that President Morales had 
instructed the Defense Minister to work on acquiring additional 

planes, helicopters and radars to close this gap. (Many of our 
Bolivian CN contacts in the Department of Santa Cruz have told us 
frequently that Bolivia's lack of control over its airspace results 
in near free rein for air trafficking. Sources tell us that 175 
suspicious flights were tracked by Brazilian government mobile 
radar on the border between Bolivia and Brazil in a two-month 
period last fall.) 



Involvement of Foreign Drug Cartels 



10. 9. Bolivian press reported extensively on FELCN Commander 
General Oscar Nina's October 28 statement that Mexican drug cartels 
are investing in cocaine manufacturing in Bolivia to secure 
sufficient supply to satisfy market demand. Nina stated that 
Mexicans employ Colombian drug mafias, which in turn hire local 
drug gangs. He also stated that Colombians have taken the place of 
Peruvians, who until recently dominated the Bolivian cocaine 
market. 

11. 

12. 10. The District Prosecutor's Office in Santa Cruz recently 
expressed concern about the presence of foreign assassins who are 
hired by drug traffickers to commit murders in Bolivia. 
Anti-corruption Special Prosecutor Alex Oswaldo Cespedes told 
reporters November 16 that seven people had been killed in Santa 
Cruz over the preceding 59 days, and that he believed foreign 
assassins ("sicarios") bore responsibility. Cespedes said that a 
major increase in drug trafficking activities in the city had made 
conditions ripe for the creation of drug trafficking organizations. 
The commander of Bolivia's Special Anti-Crime Police Force, Colonel 
Miguel Gonzalez, said it is too early to conclude that foreign 
assassins were involved. 



Increase in Coca Cultivation 



13. 11. The GOB announced December 9 that coca cultivation had 
increased 6% in 2009 compared to the prior year, or by roughly 
1,830 hectares. Vice Minister of Social Defense Felipe Caceres 
told NAS Director that the two main national parks have more than 
2,000 hectares of illegal coca - 1,081 hectares in Isiboro-Secure 
and 972 hectares in Carrasco. He said the GOB knows it will have 
to resort to forced eradication in 2010, noting that many cocaleros 
do not respect the limits on cultivation set by the GOB. 



Coca Union Says Much Coca Circumvents Legal Markets 



14. 12. The Yungas Coca Producers' Association (ADEPCOCA), the 
union formed by 30,000 coca growers from twelve provinces of Los 
Yungas, released a report on November 10 that stated that of the 
16,127 metric tons of coca leaf grown annually in the Yungas, only 

4,887 metric tons (30 percent) arrives at the legal coca market in 
Villa Fatima in La Paz. The destination of the remaining 11,240 
metric tons is unknown, according to the report. The ADEPCOCA 
report also stated that of the 54,000 metric tons of coca grown 
nationwide each year, only 21,778 metric tons (40 percent) reaches 
the two legally sanctioned markets -- Villa Fatima in La Paz and 
Sacaba in Cochabamba. 



Lobbying For A New Legal Coca Marketplace 



15. 13. Coca growers of the Munecas Province in the Department of 
La Paz presented to Congress a draft bill to create a new legal 
coca market in the city of El Alto, next to La Paz, and branches in 
La Paz and Cochabamba. Currently, there are two legal markets - 
Villa Fatima in Los Yungas and Sacaba in Cochabamba. 



Bolivians Polled On Views Of Coca Situation 



16. 14. Equipos Mori conducted a November poll in Bolivia's nine 
departments that found: 



* 60% of Bolivians believe that coca cultivation has 
increased since Evo Morales became President; 



* 75% believe coca eradication should continue; 



* 61% believe that there should be additional government 
control over coca production; and 



* 55% believe the state should control production and 
commercialization of coca. 



17. 15. Comment: It may not be surprising that many Bolivians are 
concerned about coca expansion and support eradication. Those 
directly involved in coca production are a relatively small, but 
influential, percentage of the overall Bolivian population. There 
are approximately 44,000 families in the Chapare (an average of 
five people per family) that are directly involved in growing coca, 
and 26,000 families in the Yungas (an average of four people per 
family). The total Bolivian population is approximately 9 million. 


18. 
Creamer