Bolivia: The Cocaine Republic

| Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 | No Comments »

By Rodrigo Rangel VEJA BrazilBY DUDA TEIXEIRA

A police report reveals the meeting of a Brazilian drug lord and the Bolivian government’s second-in-command.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales is proud to encourage the cultivation of coca, the raw material for more than half of the cocaine and crack consumed in Brazil, arguing that its leaves are used to produce tea and traditional medicines. However, the United Nations (UN) estimates that only one-third of the coca planted in the country is necessary to meet this demand.  The rest is used for drug trafficking and, consequently, contributes to corrupting the lives of nearly one million Brazilians and their families.  Recently, evidence has emerged that the Bolivian government’s complicity with drug trafficking goes beyond a simple defense of the cocaleros, or coca growers.  VEJA magazine had access to the reports produced by an intelligence unit of the Bolivian police which reveal, among other facts, a direct connection between Morales’ confidante, Minister of the Presidency Juan Ramón Quintana, and a Brazilian drug trafficker currently serving a sentence in Catanduvas, a maximum-security prison in Paraná.

One document, entitled “Apprehension of an international fugitive” and signed with the cover name “Carlos,” describes how Bolivian officials located the home of Brazilian Maximiliano Dorado Munhoz Filho in 2010.  Max – as he is known – and his gang had estates in Guajará-Mirim and eight other cities in Rondonia, where they collected the drugs from Bolivian aircraft.  Every month, Max’s gang intercepted approximately 500 kilos of cocaine, which were then transported to San Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The drug trafficker had fled the Urso Branco prison in Rondonia in 2001, and was suspected of hiding in Bolivia. In fact, he had a property on Chiribital street, on the corner with Pachiuba, in an upscale neighborhood in Santa Cruz de la Sierra [Bolivia].  On November 18, 2010, at 2 p.m., police surveillance witnessed an extravagant scene. Quintana, now the second most powerful man in the republic, appeared in the company of 28-year-old Jessica Jordan, famous in her country for having been elected Miss Bolivia just 4 years earlier.  Both had at the time positions of trust in government agencies.

Quintana was the director of the Agency for the Development of the Macro-regions and Border Areas.  Five months earlier, Vice President Álvaro García Linera had designated Jessica as Regional Director of Development of Beni state, a department that shares borders with Rondonia and from where much of the Bolivian drugs enter Brazil.  Quintana and Jessica arrived at Max’s residence empty-handed and left twenty minutes later with two briefcases. The contents are unknown.

Two months after Max’s meeting with members of the Morales government, the Brazilian Federal Police arrested him in a joint operation with a group of handpicked members of the Bolivian intelligence service, and took him to Brazil. As for Quintana, the following year Evo Morales appointed him as Minister of the Presidency, the equivalent to the Brazilian Civil House [a presidential advisory office], a position he had already occupied from 2006 to 2009.  Agent Carlos’ report on the meeting between government officials and the Brazilian drug dealer is part of a series of documents leaked to the Bolivian and United States media by a politician from the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS), Evo Morales’ party.  According to the author of the information leak, the government has not fulfilled its promise to improve the lives of the poor nor of the indigenous people of Bolivia.  By promoting himself as a defender of the indigenous populations, Evo Morales won two presidential elections. However, the majority of them are dissatisfied.

Since Morales took office, there has been a 22% increase in the surface dedicated to the cultivation of coca in the country.  Unlike Colombia, which in the 1980s cultivated and refined 90% of the cocaine consumed worldwide and fought the cartels and managed to decrease their production, Bolivia and Peru have increased their share of the market and now provide half of the drugs derived from coca leaves.  Cocaine factories, which did not exist at the time in Bolivia, began to appear by the hundreds, and currently Colombian and Mexican cartels, as well as the Brazilian PCC gang operate in the country.

Aware of the growth of organized crime and of the closing of the political doors to their representatives, indigenous people and trade unionists have come to openly criticize Morales.  Last month, police went on strike demanding better wages.Two weeks ago, a new indigenous march arrived in La Paz to prevent the construction of a road in the indigenous ecological park Isiboro Secure (TIPNIS). The project that unites “two peoples without inhabitants,” according to the Bolivian people, aims to open new frontiers for the planting of coca, since the productivity of the neighboring region of Chapare, the main stronghold of Morales where 90% of the leaves are destined for the production of illegal drugs, is in decline.  Quintana does not tire of attacking the indigenous populations opposed to the construction of the road, while defending the coca growers.  Quintana is a former military man, former araponga [a police agent that illegally taps phone conversations] trained by Americans, and former adviser to the Minister of Defense under President Hugo Banzer (1997-2001).  In addition, he is the author of the most anti-American statements of the Morales Government.  He is credited with the suggestion, adopted by Morales, of expelling Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, a U.S. agency that paid for the fuel and part of the salary of the Bolivian police officers dedicated to the fight against drug trafficking in the country.  It is not surprising that such a measure was crafted by the man who shares with Vice President Álvaro García Linera the responsibility for managing the Bolivian government’s relations with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

The reports that reveal the compromising ties of the Bolivian Government with drug traffickers were made by officers sympathetic to the Morales administration, surprised at the inability of the president to perceive the corruption around him. ”The efforts made by our friend and brother Evo to eradicate corruption fall on deaf ears and can be used by the opposition to tarnish his honor,” explained an undercover officer nicknamed Confucius.  One of the mentioned documents reveals that Raúl García, father of Vice President Linera and addicted to cocaine, would have influenced the appointment of the Director of Customs of the Viru Viru airport in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where much of the drug destined to Brazil passes through.  ”Some Colombian traffickers who claim to have given the Vice President’s father an apartment in Santa Cruz in exchange for protection for certain aircraft to take off say they have evidence of this,” relates one of the confidential reports.  Notably, Raúl García died of a heart attack last year.

“The growing performance of the Brazilian drug traffickers in Bolivia is facilitated by a number of factors which include the possibility of negotiating with members of the government,” said Douglas Farah, an American specializing in the study of the flow of illegal arms and drugs, who analyzed all confidential documents delivered by the MAS politician.  So far there is no data that will help clarify if the environment around Evo Morales has been corrupted in isolation or if he would have direct involvement in his administration’s business with the drug traffickers. Until now the president has not recognized anything running improperly or illegally. Since the opposition was presented with such incriminating documents, the authorities have not opened any investigation. Instead, there have been attempts to punish the messengers. Senator Roger Pinto, for example, who in March 2011 had the boldness to take a copy of the report on the meeting between Quintana and Max to the Presidential Palace, among other incriminating reports, was accused of corruption by Morales and ended up receiving political asylum at the Brazilian embassy in La Paz.  As of last Friday, he had not yet received the pass from the Bolivian government to be able to board a plane bound for Brazil.

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