Bolivia
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    Profile

    Bolivia

    Capital

    La Paz/Sucre

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 40,895.32 million

    Income group

    Lower middle income

    Population

    11,513,100

    Area

    1,098,580 km²

    Geography type

    Landlocked

    4.30

    Criminality score

    131st of 193 countries

    24th of 35 countries in Americas

    11th of 12 countries in South America

    Criminal market

    4.60

    Human trafficking

    5.00

    Human smuggling

    2.00

    Arms trafficking

    4.00

    Flora crimes

    7.00

    Fauna crimes

    5.00

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    8.00

    Heroin trade

    2.00

    Cocaine trade

    8.50

    Cannabis trade

    2.50

    Synthetic drug trade

    2.00

    Criminal actors

    4.00

    Mafia-style groups

    3.50

    Criminal networks

    2.00

    State-embedded actors

    6.00

    Foreign actors

    4.50

    4.88

    Resilience score

    95th of 193 countries

    19th of 35 countries in Americas

    7th of 12 countries in South America

    Political leadership and governance

    5.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    4.00

    International cooperation

    5.00

    National policies and laws

    6.00

    Judicial system and detention

    3.50

    Law enforcement

    5.00

    Territorial integrity

    5.00

    Anti-money laundering

    4.50

    Economic regulatory capacity

    5.00

    Victim and witness support

    5.00

    Prevention

    6.00

    Non-state actors

    4.50

    4.88 4.00 4.60 4.88 4.00 4.60

    4.88

    Resilience score

    95th of 193 countries

    19th of 35 countries in Americas

    7th of 12 countries in South America

    Political leadership and governance

    5.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    4.00

    International cooperation

    5.00

    National policies and laws

    6.00

    Judicial system and detention

    3.50

    Law enforcement

    5.00

    Territorial integrity

    5.00

    Anti-money laundering

    4.50

    Economic regulatory capacity

    5.00

    Victim and witness support

    5.00

    Prevention

    6.00

    Non-state actors

    4.50

    Analysis

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    People

    Bolivia is a transit and destination country for human trafficking victims from Africa, Chile and the Caribbean. Bolivian nationals, namely women and children, are also trafficked to Argentina, Brazil, Panama and Chile. Victims are subject to forced begging, sexual exploitation and organ trafficking by national and transnational mafias. Forced prostitution and child labour is rampant in Bolivian and Peruvian illegal mining settlements, and Bolivian women are also exploited in the tourist town of Piura. Local criminal networks control victims and are known to threaten their relatives, as well as public officers.

    Although human smuggling is not significant in Bolivia, the market interacts with other criminal markets such as human and drug trafficking. Bolivia is a transit country for people from Africa, who are smuggled to the US, as well as a transit and destination country for people smuggled from Chile and the Caribbean.

    Trade

    Arms trafficking groups, predominantly from Brazil and Paraguay, use Bolivia as a transit country. The international arms trafficking route starts in Miami, in the US, and flows via the Dominican Republic to Peru or Chile and through Bolivia, with Brazil or Paraguay the final destinations. While arms are accessible to local groups, the primary markets are, as noted, Brazil or Paraguay. Criminal groups operating in Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru may exchange arms at border crossing points, and criminal organizations are known to arm their members and raid Bolivian military bases. This market is key for other criminal market operations, including drug trafficking, and may be enabled by low-level corruption. Furthermore, violence frequently linked to criminal activity is rising, especially in cities.

    Environment

    Bolivia has one of the highest global deforestation levels as a result of illegal logging, and the clearing of land for agriculture and livestock, driven by exports to China. The Santa Cruz department is currently the most deforested area, but forced labour of loggers also occurs in the Amazon rainforest where illegal activities affect indigenous tribes and have resulted in the murder of indigenous leaders and activists. Bolivia has a wood trade deficit due in part to illicit trafficking, which is facilitated by scarce infrastructure, corruption and a lack of park ranger equipment. In the Amazon region, unarmed rangers do three patrols annually, but loggers are usually armed with carbines. Bolivia is also a source, destination and transit country for wildlife specimens from neighbouring countries, perhaps facilitating illegal wildlife trade between Brazil and Peru. This mainly concerns live specimens for the pet trade, and products for consumption, traditional use, or religious festivals, including lizards, freshwater turtles, parrots, llamas, vicunas as well as alpaca wool or meat. Most illegal fauna imports, such as birds, are traded on the local market or Facebook, and smuggling is enabled by porous borders, lax prosecution laws and social acceptance.

    The primary non-renewable resource crimes in Bolivia are illegal mining and natural gas and gasoline smuggling to neighbouring countries. Regarding the latter, micro-trafficking to Peru, Chile, Brazil and Paraguay is significant. Gold mining is part of the ancient Bolivian culture, and the main criminal actors are local illegal miners or jukus, who recruit legitimate mineworkers or bribe officers to let them steal metal or tools from mines, usually smuggling Peruvian gold to bigger markets. Illegal mining mostly occurs where violence and other crimes, such as human, drug and arms trafficking are prevalent. Gold is illegally transported by 'mules', shielded vehicles, motorcycles and planes.

    Drugs

    In Bolivia, the heroin trade pales in comparison to cannabis, the most consumed drug, and cocaine, the most produced and trafficked drug. Bolivia is one of the top cocaine producers in the world, and it is legal to grow and consume coca leaves for cultural reasons. Bolivia is also a transit country for Peruvian and Colombian cocaine. As domestic cocaine consumption is low, most profit is generated by external demand. Mexican and Colombian cartels control trafficking routes towards Chile, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina, from where cocaine is also sent to Europe. However, Bolivian criminal organizations are also involved in smuggling coca base to Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, sometimes by plane. Significantly, associated violence has risen in some cities and regions, such as Santa Cruz, but coca cultivation has also provided a lifeline for poorer sectors during past recessions.

    Although cannabis is the most frequently used illegal drug, only a fraction of the market is covered by local production. Bolivia is therefore also a transit and destination country for cannabis, and Colombian organizations facilitate trafficking via Peru with a loose structure of hired hands. Small family groups in the Tarija department transit cannabis through the southern part of the country, primarily from Paraguay to northern Chile, and informal low-level groups manage local trade. Synthetic drug consumption is low, and pharmaceuticals, such as tramadol, benzodiazepine products and amphetamines require prescriptions and are relatively costly. These substances enter from Brazil and Argentina, making Bolivia a transit country. Lately, Chinese LSD has entered the market, and there has been an increase in consumption in elite high schools.

    Criminal Actors

    Leaders of drug clans, as well as their relatives and allies, have held political positions, and the Bolivian police and other institutions are involved in corruption, bribery and drug trafficking at all levels. The main bribery recipients are the judiciary, police, and customs. Low-level corruption in smuggling and drug trafficking increased with a lack of civilian oversight during the interim government (2019–2020). A lack of capacity and resources undermine institutions, while low salaries, and an overstaffed and unprofessional bureaucracy create incentives for corruption, clientelism, and patronage.

    The main foreign criminal actors in Bolivia include the Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC), Commando Vermelho, Bandas Criminales (BACRIM), the Sinaloa Cartel, the New Generation Jalisco Cartel, and the Italian mafia-style group 'Ndrangheta. The PCC sends emissaries across the extensive, poorly monitored border, and has an agreement with the Commando Vermelho in respect to Santa Cruz and the Pando region. Moreover, due to corruption and the absence of state institutions, San Matías is part of a major drug trafficking corridor for Bolivian cocaine entering Brazil. Meanwhile, BACRIM controls Bolivian cocaine processing laboratories and trafficking routes from Peru to Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Chile. Bolivian producers mostly sell coca base, and Colombian and Brazilian actors control refinement processes. Although foreign mafia-style groups use Bolivia to purchase or transit drugs, they do not control territory, nor do they have a permanent, high-level presence. While local organizations are smaller and easily replaced, family clans in the Beni department, such as the Candia Castedo, Lima Lobo and the Rodríguez clans, have existed for decades and maintain shifting relationships with international organizations. They control coca base trans-shipment via small planes to Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, for local consumption or export to Europe and North Africa.

    Leadership and governance

    The drug policy ‘Coca Sí, Cocaína No’ initiated by former president Evo Morales focused on legalizing and industrializing coca leaf plantations. Previous forced eradication policies led to human rights abuses, and Morales' approach recognized that growers’ involvement in illicit trade is primarily driven by economic necessity. Morales saw shortcomings in the administration of justice and health services, and generally, the government demonstrated opposition to organized crime and corruption, although corruption scandals, marshalling challenges and a lack of action tempered success. In his fourth term, Morales announced the creation of the council for the fight against corruption, to complement the vice ministry of institutional transparency and fight against corruption. Human rights were severely threatened under the interim government led by Jeanine Añez following Morales’ resignation, including through the sanctioning of the use of lethal force against nonviolent pro-Morales protestors, and the passing of a supreme decree removing significant limitations on the permissible actions of the security forces. Subsequently, the new government of Luis Arce was elected in November 2020, and has vowed to not allow Morales to be hugely influential. The political instability caused by abrupt changes to government in the past two years has created uncertainty and a degree of discontinuity with regard to public policies. In general, Bolivia performs below regional governance averages, and there is evidence of drug dealers having held key political positions.

    Bolivia has extradition treaties with Argentina, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Belgium, the US, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Venezuela, Peru and the Southern Common Market. During Morales' presidency, Bolivia failed to extradite criminals to Argentina and Brazil, and concerns arose regarding judicial delays benefiting the accused. Despite the fact that in 2008 Morales expelled the US Drug Enforcement Administration from the country, until 2019, Bolivia actively participated in regional and international agreements regarding drugs and trade. Although the interim government reopened diplomatic relations with the US, there are concerns that this will negatively affect the legal coca market. While the state is party to international agreements to fight organized crime, compliance is weak. For instance, Bolivian officers working with INTERPOL deleted the Red Notice for one of the most wanted drug traffickers in Bolivia. Bolivian national law covers human trafficking and smuggling, drug trafficking, coca production, flora and fauna crimes, arms trafficking and non-renewable resource crimes, although weaknesses exist regarding flora and non-renewable resource crimes. While logging is a crime, the trafficking or the transportation of illegal wood is an administrative offence. Regarding non-renewable resource crimes, the law may promote illegal mining by giving rights to anyone requesting an area for exploitation without considering indigenous communities as mining actors. Since it is relatively easy to obtain permits to exploit mines, miners often do not comply with exploitation, labour and environmental norms. Notably, the law that legalizes coca plantations is an example of legislation which has yielded better results in Bolivia than in Colombia and Peru.

    Criminal justice and security

    The Bolivian judicial system is considered an obstacle to fighting crime because of delayed criminal procedures and pervasive corruption among lawyers, prosecutors and judges, who profit from victims. Severe prison overcrowding is exacerbated by arbitrary and politically motivated arrests; most prisoners are pre-trial detainees, and the entire prison system suffers a lack of medical and security personnel. The ratio of police officers to citizens also falls short of international standards as a result of political interference, low salaries and pensions, poor working conditions and inadequate training. There are a number of specialized units, with mandates including crime, drug trafficking and environmental crime, and although the annual budget has increased, problems persist due to the lack of equipment as well as corruption. In general, public perception of the police is negative. The country shares borders with Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Paraguay and Chile, but despite investments made, most borders are highly vulnerable with many irregular crossing points available to facilitate illegal flows.

    Economic and financial environment

    Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in the region, with growth heavily dependent on government investment and on income generated from hydrocarbons and has one of the world’s largest informal economies. The country is at significant risk of asset laundering and terrorism financing, and the financial investigations unit of the ministry of economy and public finance is tasked with controlling money laundering. In 2012, Bolivia created a national council to combat illicit laundering of profits which was tasked with setting out guidelines and policies to best combat money laundering, and in 2013, new regulatory procedures were created, allowing for the freezing and confiscation of criminal proceeds. Bolivian criminal courts have jurisdiction over money laundering and related offences, and can request information from banks for investigative purposes.

    Civil society and social protection

    Bolivian law mandates the protection of victims and witnesses by the office of the prosecutor general, the police and the ministry of justice. There is an office for victim protection and assistance per department, delivered by the Servicio Plurinacional de Asistencia a la Víctima. With regards to prevention, the social control policy for coca has been lauded for reducing cultivation and violence, however, the policy's future remains undetermined. Meanwhile, United Nations initiatives in Bolivia focus on coca, development, health and drugs’ oversight, prevention, organized crime, corruption and criminal justice reform. Notably, efforts to promote wildlife protection and counter human trafficking, also exist in the country. A council chaired by the Ministry of Justice was responsible for coordinating anti-trafficking efforts at the national level, but due to blurred lines and a lack of clear and distinct mandates with other units involved in combating human trafficking, cooperation on the matter is poor. Nevertheless, a national action plan was in place throughout 2020 and work progressed on the development of the 2021–2025 national action plan. It has been noted by various civil society organizations that under the transitional government they have enjoyed increased cooperation with government officials on trafficking issues. The development of a federal registry obliging employment agencies to document their activities has successfully reduced the extent to which these agencies were able to exploit workers.

    The media is the main non-state actor denouncing corruption and crime, but there is little investigative journalism, and accounts can be sensationalist or based on unverified information. There are increasing attacks on journalists and grassroots press outlets, and the media is under strong state pressure to avoid criticism of the government and the president.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.