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YAPACANI Breaking Bad: the Sinuous and Wavy Road of Drugs

8 MINS READOct 20, 2014 | 15:41 GMT

By Carlos Rodriguez San Martín for Datos Revistas, translated for Stratfor by Pedro Basaure-Forgues
"We don’t want Yapacaní to turn in to a land subdue to the twisted authority of the drug traffickers. We want it to be what it has always been, a historic town we all feel proud of due to its productive potential for Santa Cruz and Bolivia."
- Bolivian counternarcotics officer.
After almost 10 years denying the presence of the drug cartels, the Government of President Morales finally admitted that the Yapacaní region[1] in the Santa Cruz Department turned out to be a true drug traffic zone. That's why pertaining authorities, recently made the decision to build an important counterdrug military base, aimed to somehow break-up or diminish the Colombian and Brazilian narco activity operating there. 
Less than five years ago, Yapacaní, San Germán and Buena Vista town halls, were net producers of coffee and tropical products. Today, neighbors oppose the construction of the military base due to "…the possible increment of violence in their zone".
Former Interior Minister Carlos Romero, reported that in less than two months, counterdrug police teams confiscated 15 tons of drug, destroyed 6.021 mobile drug factories, 39 crystallization laboratories, and several landing strips.
Expert Franklin Alcaráz explains "…it's very difficult for the Government to properly confront crime when the society has already been penetrated". Yapacani's population opposes the antidrug military base construction, organizing public demonstrations and road's blockings to protest the Government's decision.
Rural Patrol Units (Umopar by its Spanish initials), stationed in the region, said that they "…don't want Yapacaní to turn in to a land subdue to the twisted authority of the drug traffickers. We want it to be what it has always been, a historic town we all feel proud of due to its natural beauty, productive and tourism potential for the benefit of Santa Cruz and Bolivia."
In line with such statements, Yapacani's Mayor Zenobio Meneses, pointed that the presence of drug traffickers, is due to the existence of coca leaves massively produced at this Chapare region near the city of Cochabamba.
FELNC (the antidrug specialized police force), opened a base near the town of Chimoré in the Cochabamba's tropic, which turned out to be insufficient to control the dangerous growth of the cocaine traffic activity.
The FELNC force usually operated under the standards of specialized USA drug agencies, standards that were thereafter modified since President's Morales took office back in 2006. He receives most of his political support from the six coca growers' federations established in the Chapare, and even when it is said that the same coca producers practice tight controls to avoid any and all illegal coca related activities, there is no certification that it is truly so.
The Chimoré Base in the Chapare
Counterdrug agents in the Chapare, report frequent traffickers' confrontations and shootings, followed by coldblooded murderers that constitute a sort of usual and unavoidable consequence where all kinds of drug deals take place on a daily basis.
Antidrug authorities are strongly trying to avoid the country's irrespective consideration as a massive cocaine producer country. The Chimoré Base to be built at the Yapacaní town hall will cost around 1.5 million Euros, fully financed by the EC. Nevertheless, they expressed public preoccupation when learning that the last annual USA State Department report on drugs' eradication, questioned the lack of control in Bolivia to stop the entrance of chemicals to manufacture drugs.
Another part of the same report —shared by Americans and Europeans alike— states that the possibility also exists to turn Bolivia into an attractive market for the manufacturing of the so called design drugs, which regretfully gained a spectacular growth and popularity in the world drug markets, and are now days  being considered as the "dope of the future"
As per UNODC (United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime) reports, the production of this type of drugs, have increased worldwide by 50% from 2009 to 2012.
They are highly profitable and easy to manufacture drugs, like amphetamine crystals or ecstasies pills which only require some basic chemicals and a simple laboratory to fix the mix, different therefore, from cocaine which needs the land and special conditions to grow the raw material: coca leaves.[2]
"Fortunately Bolivia does not have a highly developed chemical industry for such a purpose…" assert drug's trafficking eradication authorities.
Even when it is true that this type of design drugs trafficking is nowadays scarce —most of the organized drug cartels do operate with one of these substances, but far less that with cocaine— consumption concentrates within high and middle class markets —one single ecstasies pill dose costs between 30 to 60 US dollars— they are exponentially growing worldwide.
Being things the way they are, security specialized forces are of vital importance. One former FELNC commander, accepted to talk with datOs provided not revealing his name. He briefed the situation as follows: "In 2003 each one of us travelled to the USA; we had special courses in Germany and used to work with DEA experts. Resources were gradually reduced and structures were dismantled"
Easiness to get precursor chemicals to manufacture cocaine and its derivatives, constitute another facilitating aspect for drug producers within this illegal market: spray's ether, lithium from batteries, naphtha and kerosene "…without any kind of control, can be gotten as easy as a winking …" adds the same source.
Coca on its way
What does not seem to be under Bolivian authorities' mind, is the free illegal coca circulation that derives into cocaine production. "It is a country wide phenomenon…" confirms a counterdrug patrol agent.
Told by one of our reporters, an anecdotic case clearly reflects the above situation. "Tuesday, April the first, was not a normal day at the La Paz – Oruro road. Numerous drivers and around one thousand passengers converged at the blocked road, where cooperative miners had thrown stones over the asphalt.  Pedro Almanza Calderón, a Volvo truck driver was among the tumult. He left the city of La Paz at 5:00 a.m. with a clinker load to be delivered in Santa Cruz; he was most impatient within the cab of his truck awaiting the end of the blockage to restart his way. Suddenly a very strong impact forced Pedro to step down almost in shock."
In his official statement to the Police, Almanza said: "I stepped down trembling and freighted to find out what happened. I saw a Nissan Cóndor truck with a coca cargo that strongly bumped the back of my truck. I then saw two grown up persons trapped among the twisted cab remains. We helped them and we also managed to rescue a girl about three years old. A few minutes later, another person appeared in a white taxi claiming to be the father's girl. The two grownups —a man and a woman— trapped in the truck's cab, were dead. The remaining witnesses called the police."
Out from the same statements taken by the police to Pedro Almanza Calderón, we can deduce that the Nissan Cóndor truck was duly escorted by the said white taxi; firstly due to the virtual instant girl's rescue and secondly because before the police arrival, Pedro Almanza Calderón mentions the appearance of a second red Volvo Truck with license 1545-DCB that quickly transferred the coca cargo. According to Almanza's declaration, the second truck occupants said that at least they had to recoup the coca load not to lose more money.  Five minutes later the narcotics police arrived and Almaza heard them commenting that the crashed truck was the same one also caught one week before, with a similar illegal coca cargo.
Note: Breaking Bad
The AMC TV saga Breaking Bad resulted more addictive than the same story told by Walter White, a chemist with a terminal cancer that decided to spend the rest of his life, manufacturing amphetamines one of the world's most lethal synthetic drugs. The saga turned out to be this decade's true cultural phenomena; over ten million people tuned the final chapter.
Way beyond the adorable and antihero White, the synthetic drug itself became the saga's top star. Within the United States, this crystal likes easy to make substance derived from ephedrine, produces furious effects. It imposed itself as the most destructive street cheap drug with an addiction level similar to that of cocaine's paste, and was made by White right within a moving house.
Luckily, amphetamines still did not trespassed USA frontiers, to become a world narcotic phenomenon, though it already made its stellar appearance with the Breaking Bad sagas type, pointing the way through peoples' imaginary.
Bolivia's antidrug forces did not yet reported the presence of this type of drugs in the country, which needs small spaces to be made, like moving houses or small apartments as seen in the above mentioned TV saga.             
[1] The Yapacaní Town Hall belongs to the Ichilo Province of Cochabamba near the Choré Reserve and Amboró Park in the dividing line with the Santa Cruz Department. It is becoming a well known coca growing region with extended fields with an abundant production that goes directly to the cocaine manufacturing as this region's coca leaves, are unfit for chewing, the ancestral and traditional native practice.  (TN)
[2] Please see the "Breaking Bad" insert. (TN)


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