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A. Introduction

According to coca cultivation estimates from the United States government, the Government of Bolivia, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Bolivia is the third largest producer of cocaine in the world. It is also a major transit zone for Peruvian cocaine. The United States estimates that coca cultivation increased by 1,500 ha (to 36,500 ha) from 2014 to 2015. The Government of Bolivia has inadequate controls over its domestic coca cultivation. Most Bolivian cocaine is exported to other Latin American countries, especially Brazil, for domestic consumption or for onward transit to West Africa and Europe, rather than to the United States.

In September 2016, the United States again determined that Bolivia "failed demonstrably" to adhere to its obligations under international counternarcotics agreements and the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended. This Presidential determination was based, in part, on insufficient Bolivian law enforcement efforts to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations and inadequate Bolivian controls to prevent the diversion of "legal" coca cultivation to illicit cocaine production during the previous year.

According to 2015 data from the latest UNODC/Bolivian government report, more coca is sold in the Yungas legal market than is grown in that region, the largest coca growing region in Bolivia. Nearly all of the coca grown in Cochabamba's Chapare region (the second largest area for coca cultivation), is diverted away from the legal market. Bolivian President Evo Morales is also the president of the coca growers' federation in that region. Peruvian officials estimate that 50 percent of all Peruvian cocaine departs to or through Bolivia via aerial transshipment, commonly known as the "air bridge." Bolivia reportedly confiscated 11 aircraft involved in drug trafficking in 2016, down from 39 reportedly seized in 2015 by the Special Counter-Narcotics Police Force (FELCN), and the Bolivian government destroyed 24 clandestine air strips in 2016. In October 2016, Argentina reported an average of one illegal drug flight per day from Bolivia.

In traditional coca cultivation areas, Bolivia maintains a "social control" policy to illicit coca production. Under this approach, the government usually negotiates with coca growers to obtain their consent for eradication. In nontraditional areas, including national parks, eradication is mandatory.

B. Drug Control Accomplishments, Policies, and Trends

1. Institutional Development

Bolivia has numerous entities involved in drug control. The National Drug Control Council (CONALTID), chaired by the Ministry of Government, is the central counternarcotics policymaking body in Bolivia. The Vice Ministry for Social Defense (VMSD) is mandated to combat drug trafficking, regulate coca production, advance coca eradication and drug prevention, and execute rehabilitation programs. The FELCN is focused on interdiction and money laundering cases, has approximately 1,600 personnel, and reports to the VMSD. The Joint Eradication Task Force (FTC) conducts manual coca eradication with approximately 2,300 personnel. The Unit for the Execution of the Fight against Narcotics (UELICN) plans and budgets for counternarcotics operations. In 2016, UELICN's budget was $48.3 million, and a budget within five percent of this 2016 budget is expected for 2017. Internationally, Bolivia signed or renewed counternarcotic cooperation agreements with Peru, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia in 2016.

Bolivia's 2016-2020 Strategy to Combat Drug Trafficking and Reduction of Excess Cultivation of Coca Leaf prioritizes actions against criminal organizations rather than what the Bolivian government considers legitimate farmers who cultivate coca for traditional uses. For several years the Bolivian government has pledged to re-write its counternarcotics law to allow more licit coca cultivation purportedly for traditional consumption, but no legislative changes were enacted in 2016. Current Bolivian coca cultivation far exceeds the country's demand for coca for traditional purposes. The Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission of the Organization of American States continues to recommend that Bolivia implement a system to monitor narcotics and psychotropic drugs used in healthcare settings to ensure the medicines are not diverted for illegitimate uses.

Bolivia receives most of its foreign counternarcotic financial support from the European Union (EU), with the EU currently implementing approximately $11 million in funding for technical support and another $55 million in funding pledged for the next three years. The Bolivian government denies that foreign drug cartels operate within its borders, but acknowledges the presence of cartel emissaries.

The United States and Bolivia are parties to a 1995 extradition treaty that permits the extradition of nationals for the most serious offenses, including drug trafficking. Bolivia and the United States do not have a mutual legal assistance treaty, but both countries can request assistance through various multilateral conventions to which both are signatories.

2. Supply Reduction

FELCN reported destroying 125 cocaine hydrochloride processing labs and 4,065 rustic cocaine labs during 2016, a 19 percent increase and four percent decrease, respectively, from 2015. According to the Bolivian government, FELCN seized 12.2 MT of cocaine base and 17.76 MT of cocaine hydrochloride in 2016--a four percent decrease in cocaine base seizures, but a 206.5 percent increase in cocaine hydrochloride from 2015.

FELCN arrested 3,598 individuals (including 173 foreign nationals) on narcotics-related offenses in 2016. Corruption, interference by other branches of government, and insufficient judicial resources undermine due process and create delays in the administration of justice. According to the Bolivia Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, only 41 percent of municipalities have a prosecutor and, nation-wide, only 69 public defenders serve urban areas and only 15 serve rural areas.

The United States government estimated that coca cultivation was 36,500 ha in 2015, a nearly three percent increase from 2014, and that the production potential of the coca has doubled over the last decade, to 255 metric tons (MT). UNODC estimated that 20,200 ha of coca were cultivated within Bolivia in 2015, a one percent decrease from 2014. UNODC's estimate would have nearly achieved the Bolivian government's 2011-2015 strategy coca cultivation reduction target of 20,000 ha, but is 60 percent over the Bolivian legal limit for coca cultivation in 2015. UNODC officials have noted that 95 percent of the Chapare region's 6,000 ha of coca cultivation is destined for illicit cocaine production and not traditional consumption.

The United States estimates that coca leaf cultivation increased by approximately 26 percent from 2010-2015. The Bolivian government and UNODC estimated that total coca leaf cultivation declined by more than one third the same period. According to the most recently available information from the Bolivian government, Bolivian authorities eradicated 6,577 ha of coca in 2016, down from 11,019 ha in 2015 (a decrease of 40 percent), which resulted in a net reduction of coca cultivation of 200 ha.

3. Public Information, Prevention, and Treatment

Illicit drug consumption remains low in Bolivia, according to UNODC and the 2015 World Drug Report. According to a 2013 university study cited in Bolivia's 2016-2020 counternarcotics strategy, 0.32 percent of Bolivians consumed cocaine, and 1.2 percent consumed marijuana.

There are approximately 80 drug treatment and rehabilitation centers in Bolivia. According to the Bolivian government's 2016-2020 strategy, 98 percent of those centers are run by nongovernmental organizations. There are only two public treatment centers, in Tarija and Santa Cruz.

The Ministry of Education and UNODC are training 3,800 teachers in methodologies for drug prevention. These teachers, in turn, are training more than 80,000 students in preventing drug abuse, domestic violence, bullying, and trafficking in persons.

Through a separate UNODC project, "Prevention of Drug Abuse in Educational Communities of Bolivia," student training is being implemented in 140 elementary, middle, and high schools in municipalities in the departments of La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro, Santa Cruz and Chuquisaca. The project is supported by the Ministry of Government, the Bolivian National Drug Control Board (CONALTID), the EU, Denmark, and Spain.

4. Corruption

As a matter of official policy, the Government of Bolivia does not encourage or facilitate illegal activity associated with drug trafficking. President Morales and other senior government officials have acknowledged serious corruption problems in the judiciary and police. Minister of Government Carlos Romero publicly supported the Ministry of Transparency and Anticorruption's September 2015 decision to require all police officers to provide a sworn statement acknowledging all assets as of 2017, as a mechanism to monitor unjustified income. The Ministry of Transparency and Anticorruption and the Prosecutor's Office are responsible for preventing and combating corruption. Approximately 60 police officers were investigated for corruption associated with drug trafficking in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available. The Prosecutor's office reported that during the first nine months of 2016, there were 799 narcotics trafficking sentences, resulting in 715 guilty verdicts and 84 acquittals. Of the individuals arrested, 242 were foreign nationals.

FELCN is the only police unit with a polygraph program. All FELCN members are required to take an annual polygraph test and those who do not pass are supposed to transfer out of the program. However, reports vary as to whether those two requisites are applied.

C. National Goals, Bilateral Cooperation, and U.S. Policy Initiatives

The United States Embassy meets periodically with the Vice Ministry for Social Defense and Controlled Substances to discuss Bolivia's counternarcotics efforts. Bolivia sent participants to seven courses at the U.S.-funded International Law Enforcement Academy in 2016. The participants represented two Bolivian institutions: FELCN and Bolivian Customs. A memorandum of understanding between Bolivian Customs and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that would permit information exchanges and collaboration against drug trafficking and other criminal activity has been pending completion since 2015. The United States does not have a counternarcotics presence in Bolivia, but it consults with international organizations and third party governments involved in supporting Bolivian efforts to strengthen the rule of law and drug control efforts.

D. Conclusion

Bolivia remains the third largest producer of coca and cocaine in the world and a major transit country for Peruvian cocaine. U.S. data shows that Bolivian coca cultivation is increasing. The Bolivian government and UNODC claim coca cultivation is decreasing. More importantly, according to U.S. data, potential cocaine production in Bolivia has doubled over the past decade, to 255 metric tons. Neither UNODC nor the Government of Bolivia has information that would confirm or dispute this assessment. Further, there appears to be no data to support the Bolivian government's claims that traditional, cultural, and medicinal coca consumption has increased to justify raising the legal limit of coca cultivation from 12,000 ha to 20,000 ha, as the Government of Bolivia has proposed.

Bolivia's inadequate controls over its legal markets are also a matter of concern. Similarly, the regular use of Bolivia as a transit point for cocaine trafficking has transnational impacts, particularly on Bolivia's neighbors. Bolivia's policy allowing the cultivation of 20,000 ha of coca exceeds the amount of coca needed for traditional purposes by approximately 36 percent, per recent EU reporting, and exceeds current Bolivian legal limits by 60 percent. In 2013, Bolivia re-acceded to the 1961 U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs with a reservation permitting coca to be used only within Bolivia for traditional, cultural, and medicinal purposes. Despite these stated conditions, Bolivia continues to promote the use of coca in other countries and discusses potential export opportunities for coca products. These actions continue to undermine Bolivia's commitments to its international drug control obligations.
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Title Annotation:Country Reports
Publication:International Narcotics Control Strategy Report
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:3BOLI
Date:Mar 1, 2017
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