‘Who Isn’t Involved?’: How Corruption Fuels Trafficking of Cocaine in Bolivia

‘Who Isn’t Involved?’: How Corruption Fuels Trafficking of Cocaine in Bolivia
A Bolivian coca leaf producer packs 50-pound bags of the dried plant to be sold and delivered to traditional market retailers, La Paz, Bolivia, March 28, 2006 (AP photo by Dado Galdieri).

Just as the expulsion of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration removed a check on drug-related corruption at the highest levels of Bolivia’s government, it has also created space for an alarming increase in lower-level illicit activity. Nevertheless, President Evo Morales maintains he has the market for cocaine in Bolivia under control.

On a Thursday evening this past February, two Bolivian men met at a public plaza in the country’s capital, La Paz, to discuss a major cocaine sale. Though they had been texting back and forth all week, each was wary of the other.

One of the men, Luis, was an emissary representing cocaine buyers in Europe; this author attended the meeting at his invitation. The other, Jorge, said he worked for a drug ring that produces and sells both “base”—cocaine in its basic chemical form—and “powder,” for immediate consumption.

Listen to Max Radwin discuss this article on WPR’s Trend Lines Podcast. His audio starts at 21:34.

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