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News (Media Awareness Project) - Bolivia: Bolivia Ant-Drug Chief: Cocaine Processing On Rise
Title:Bolivia: Bolivia Ant-Drug Chief: Cocaine Processing On Rise
Published On:2009-04-18
Source:Sierra Vista Herald (AZ)
Fetched On:2009-04-20 01:57:20

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) -- Cocaine production is on the rise in Bolivia,
with Colombian and Mexican cartels hiring intermediaries to process
the locally made coca paste there rather than exporting it, says
Bolivia's top anti-drug officer.

Cartels are contracting a growing number of middle men to process the
paste into cocaine in Bolivia, saving time they would otherwise spend
processing it themselves, anti-drug police chief Oscar Nina told The
Associated Press on Thursday in an interview.

"There is more interest and investment in purifying coca paste here
and exporting it, rather than sending it to Colombia for
purification" as in years past, Nina said.

Police have raided three modern cocaine labs in Bolivia's eastern
lowlands in recent months, arresting two Colombians at one jungle
factory that was discovered when police intercepted a small plane
carrying 660 pounds of cocaine in March.

Although no Colombians were found at the other two labs, there were
signs of a Colombian presence, Nina said, giving few other details.

The shift mirrors a pattern seen in Peru in the mid-1990s, when
anti-drug police said local groups began making cocaine from coca
they had previously sent to Colombia for processing.

Bolivian coca is largely harvested by local families. Some crush its
leaves into paste and sell to intermediaries from Colombia, Peru,
Brazil and Bolivia, Nina said. Those middle men then process the
paste into cocaine at labs across eastern Bolivia, and fly it out
from hidden jungle airstrips or have so-called human mules carry it
into Brazil and Peru on foot, he said.

Bolivian police say they busted 3,000 such labs last year, seizing a
record 27 tons of cocaine from primarily small operations. So far
this year, they report seizing 9 tons of cocaine and making 992
drug-related arrests.

Bolivia is the third largest producer of coca and cocaine after
Colombia and Peru.

Much Bolivian coca is legally grown for use in teas and herbal
remedies in the country's central Chapare region, where President Evo
Morales began his political career as the head of a coca-growers union.

Morales acknowledged for the first time last December that some
Bolivian coca ends up as cocaine, blaming "drug addiction" in foreign
countries for the shift. But he also said he considers drug
trafficking a betrayal of Bolivia and warned coca producers he would
send state security forces to the region if they participated in the
drug trade.

A gram of cocaine may sell for about $2 in Bolivia, but more than
$100 in the U.S.
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