Country Listing

Bolivia Table of Contents



An unwanted by-product of Bolivia's cocaine industry was the importation of Colombian-style drug violence. In the late 1980s, Colombia's Medellín Cartel reportedly wielded considerable power in Bolivia, setting prices for coca paste and cocaine and terrorizing the drug underworld with hired assassins. Furthermore, drug barons, organized into families, had established their own fiefdoms in Cochabamba, Beni, and Santa Cruz departments, using bribes and assassinations to destroy local authority.

In September 1986, three members of a Bolivian scientific team were slain in the Huanchaca National Park in Santa Cruz Department shortly after their aircraft landed beside a clandestine coca-paste factory. The murders led to the discovery of the country's largest cocaine-processing installation, as well as evidence of an extensive international drug-trafficking organization consisting mostly of Colombians and Brazilians. President Paz Estenssoro fired the Bolivian police commander and deputy commander as a result of their alleged involvement. In a related action, suspected traffickers in Santa Cruz murdered an opposition deputy who was a member of the congressional commission that investigated the Huanchaca case.

In the late 1980s, there were several incidents of narcoterrorism against the United States presence, the judiciary, and antidrug agents. For example, the so-called Alejo Calatayu terrorist command claimed responsibility for a May 1987 bomb attack against the Cochabamba home of a DEA agent. The Supreme Court of Justice, seated in Sucre, requested and received military police protection in mid-1986. The Explosives Brigade successfully removed a live briefcase-bomb from the Senate library in August 1987. The so-called Santa Cruz Cartel, allegedly linked to the Medellín Cartel in Colombia, claimed responsibility for the machine-gun murders of two members of the Special Antinarcotics Force in Santa Cruz in March 1988. Bolivians were also concerned about the increasing brazenness of Bolivia's drug traffickers, as demonstrated in August 1988 by a low-power dynamite attack on Secretary of State George P. Shultz's car caravan as it headed up to La Paz's Kennedy International Airport. The so-called Simón Bolívar Group and the Pablo Zárate Willka National Indigenous Force (Fuerza Indigenista Pablo Zárate Willka--FIPZW) claimed responsibility.

Data as of December 1989