Bolivia & Argentina – Dynamic drug trafficking

Drug trafficking is a challenge for Bolivia and Argentina too. Bolivia is the third largest producer of coca leaf, (behind Peru and Colombia), forcing traffickers to move there. According to recent estimates, about 30,000 hectares of Bolivian land are devoted to coca cultivation, while Bolivia’s legal coca crop limit is 12,000 hectares (for traditional use). The annual output amounts to 120 tons.

The greatest concentration of coca crops is in the Cochabamba Valley, where FELCN, the Bolivian anti-drug agency discovered clandestine coca processing laboratories, some of them mobile labs, and even more advanced than those of Colombians. As in Colombia, big drug organizations in Bolivia, fragmented into smaller groups that control drug shipment by using either planes or human couriers. The country is the largest supplier of drugs to the Brazilian, Chilean and Paraguyani markets, and to those of North America and Europe. Peruvian traffickers also have links with Mexican cartelsí branches, in particular those of the Sinaloa Cartel.


The town of Bolpreda, which belongs to the Amazonian department of Pando, has become a strategic transit hub for drug smuggling. This small town is located in the border area between Peru and Brazil. Drug loads are transported by air, using the several clandestine airstrips scattered in the area, or by land under cover of the forest. Drug transit in Bolpreda has enormously increased since the FELCN intensified the surveillance in the area of Yapacani, forcing them to move to Bolpreda.


As far as Argentina is regarded, the country plays a key role in the global drug manufacturing industry. Despite that it is not a coca growing country because of unfavorable weather conditions, Argentina, which initially was just a traditional place of drug transit, has later gradually developed an impressive chemical industry that provides the South American and the global market with the precursors for cocaine manufacturing. The economic crisis in Argentina boosted the countryís illicit drug manufacturing sector, since foreign drug organizations can buy chemicals there at a favorable exchange rate. Argentinaís drug organizations have developed a dynamic network of clandestine laboratories that refine the crude cocaine from Peru, Colombia and Bolivia and that produce synthetic drugs such as ATS. The production of synthetic drugs is fueled by the Argentinian flourishing ephedrine market, which is supported by criminal networks, many of whom are Mexican drug traffickers that use the Argentine territory to spread ATS to the global drug industry. Guatemala and Nicaragua have also developed a thriving production of precursor chemicals that are controlled by Mexican cartels.
The concentration of cocaine production in South America makes this area the starting point of all main drug flows headed to consumer markets. The US is the top cocaine consumer, followed by Europe. The cocaine loads headed to Europe transit through Venezuela and the Caribbean area or through the South of the continent, Brazil and Argentina. The drug loads for the European market are transported on ‘drug-flights’ that often stop over at West African airports. Other quantities of drugs for the European market are also transported by vessels or other makeshift means. The remaining 20% of the drug is for increasing the local consumption.

Filippo Romeo


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