By R. Renee Yaworsky
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
LA PAZ, Bolivia—A fourth senior officer in Bolivia was arrested Thursday to the embarrassment of President Evo Morales. The former head of Bolivia’s anti-narcotics police was arrested in Panama at Washington’s request and will be facing drug charges in the United States.
Rene Sanabria, a retired police general, has been charged in the U.S. with allegedly running a cocaine trafficking ring. According to a U.S. official, Sanabria had his first federal court appearance on Friday in Miami, Florida. Three other senior officers have been arrested as well.
Sanabria was once a senior official at the Interior Ministry and the top man at the FELCN counter-narcotics police from 2007-2008. In 2009 he was appointed chief of the Center of Intelligence and Information Generation.
Felipe Caceres, Bolivia’s deputy minister for social defense, expressed satisfaction about the arrests and said, “In the coming days we are going to arrest everyone (involved) and bring them to justice.” According to Caceres, Sanabria operated an intelligence center comprised of 15 officials, most of them police officers.
President Morales has said that he has zero tolerance for cocaine trafficking. Three years ago he expelled American counter-narcotics agents from the country, saying they incited his opponents. Morales was once a coca growers union leader and has promoted traditional uses of coca during his presidency.
Morales’ opponents, such as opposition legislator Andres Ortega, have called the arrests “a very clear signal that drug trafficking has deeply infiltrated the Interior Ministry.”
Bolivia is the world’s third largest cocaine producer; Colombia and Peru rank first and second. The United Nations has reported that Bolivia’s coca cultivation was 119 square miles in 2009. U.S. and Colombian officials have reported that without the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s help, traffickers from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and elsewhere operate with impunity in Bolivia.
For more information, please see:
Daily Mail-Former head of Bolivia’s drugs police is sent to U.S. to face cocaine trafficking charges-28 February 2011
News.com.au-Former Bolivian drug chief Rene Sanabria arrested-28 February 2011
Canadian Press-Former Bolivian counterdrug police chief arrested as alleged head of narco ring-27 February 2011