Narco Jets and Police Protection in Bolivia

01 December 1997

Anti-drug missions in Bolivia have frequently been transformed into public scandals. These scandals emphasize and sometimes prove the direct involvement of high government officials in drug trafficking and their protection of drug lords.

On September 15, 1995 the Peruvian anti-narcotics police, DINANDRO, detained a plane from the Bolivian Aerobol line, which became known as the Narco Jet because of its huge cargo of crystallized cocaine (slightly over 4 tons). Authorities hailed the mission as "a serious blow to drug trafficking," but multiple contradictions in official statements raised unresolved doubts. One still-murky theme is the existence of police intelligence operatives outside state control.

Congressional investigations of the Narco Jet case established that the heads of two departments of the Bolivian anti-drug police (The Special Force to Fight Drug Trafficking- FELCN) personally coordinated important intelligence activities with United States officials without their commanding officers' knowledge. Some of these activities were illegal. The Center for Special Police Operations (COPES) appeared as an extra-official operative unit, possibly rooted in past dictatorships.

Anti-drug missions in Bolivia have frequently been transformed into public scandals. These scandals emphasize and sometimes prove the direct involvement of high government officials in drug trafficking and their protection of drug lords. However, the power of government intelligence, its uses as a political tool, and the people and organizations that control it remain vague. It is crucial to systematize some of the scandals related to the Narco Jet case to shed light on these topics.

Selected Background Information on Drug Trafficking in Bolivia

The Virgin of Candelaria in the city of Copacabana, a beautiful town of white houses of the shores of Lake Titicaca, is the patron saint of the Bolivian National Police. Thousands of Bolivian officers each year visit the chambers where, surrounded by gold pillars and guarded by angels, the Saint receives the petitions and offerings of the devoted. Few notice the plaque on one wall reading, "Painted Niche Show of Devotion of Alex Pacheco S. Otilia A. de Pacheco and children, August 5, 1968." Another plaque notes a donation from the Pachecos and another Christian couple made on September 20, 1980.

Fifteen years later, after his 1995 arrest as the primary accused in the Narco Jet case, their son, Luís Amado Pacheco Abraham, alias Barbaschocas (Blond Beard), told interrogators from the Special Force in the Fight Against Drug trafficking (FELCN) that his father began buying Peruvian cocaine base in 1975 to transport to Colombia. (1) Alejandro Pacheco Sotomayor used his Copacabana-based operations as a springboard to ingratiate himself to Army Colonel Luís Arce Gómez. (2) In 1980 Arce Gómez named him Inspector General of the Ministry of the Interior in General Luís García Meza Tejada's "Cocaine Dictatorship." (3)

According to a secret report of the Special Service for State Security (SES) from the García Meza era, "the close relationship between Arce Gómez and Pacheco Sotomayor concerned other Bolivian cocaine exporters." (4) A year later, Pacheco lost his influential post. The Narcotics Police arrested him, impeding his business with Colombian drug lord Lico Chávez, who looked to his son, Luís Amado Pacheco, for payment. Luís then asked his father's friends for help, including Fernando Jaimes Via-a, with connections in Mexico and Los Angeles. In association with Jaimes and others, Barbaschocas began to make contacts to secure financing, acquisition of "merchandise" and transport coverage. He exported primarily to Europe, Mexico and the United States.

Bolivian cocaine exporters became increasingly independent from Colombian drug traffickers in the period between 1982 and 1985. (5) Bolivia moved toward democracy, but proved unable to part with the power structures erected during the past ten years of dictatorship or its dependency on the cocaine economy.

The White House demanded that the new democratic president, Hernán Siles Suazo, reduce the Bolivian coca and cocaine supply. At the same time Siles was forced to deal with the cocaine-based economic sector as it was well-structured, influential and dynamic enough to adapt to new market demands (especially with the appearance of crack) without entering into conflict with the state. (6)

The Taurus Case: The Democratic Government Confiscates Its First Drug Plane

In October 1984 Rafael Otazo, "the first president of the National Council of the Fight Against Drug Trafficking without connections to the Arce Gómez ring," (7) was fired. The Sub-secretNewary of the Ministry of the Interior, Gustavo Sánchez Salazar, traveled to Miami and Washington "for personal reasons." Soon after, Col. Carlos Fernández González received the job of antidrug chief. Ironically, Fernández had been fired from an earlier government post because of his connections to drug traffickers. (8) His participation in the Siles Suazo administration was characterized by operatives and confiscation of property and cash without any formal supervision by other governmentagencies.

Meanwhile, in 1984, DEA agents infiltrated Alejandro Pacheco's and Fernando Jaimes' drug ring. Law enforcement officials arrested them when they attempted to transport a metric ton of cocaine through Caracas on a Bolivian presidential plane. (9) Víctor Hugo Canelas Zannier, then First Secretary at the Bolivian Embassy in Venezuela, participated in the mission.

The younger Pacheco did not face prosecution. He always found police officials with the ability and willingness to cover up any "errors" before they became crimes. In other words, although he was arrested several times, he never stood trial.

In this context, the capture of the first large-scale Narco Jet shocked the Bolivian public during the final months of Siles Suazo's government. On April 2, 1985, intelligence officers intercepted a Taurus Company plane carrying 1,161 kilograms of cocaine. The High Command of the Bolivian National Police in La Paz ordered the mission. They arrested two high ranking anti-narcotics officials near the plane, Lt. Col. Gustavo Céspedes, Operations Chief, and Col. Víctor Hugo Marcowsky, Chief of Cochabamba Airport Security. (10) The former Intelligence Director of the Ministry of the Interior in Cochabamba, Gregory Arce, (11) asserted in a letter to the press that "the veils of official protection for drug trafficking are being pulled back." The newspaper Los Tiempos sustained, "The hasty action of the police during the operation impeded the subsequent arrest ofthe drug ring leaders, who observed the arrests from a certain distance."

The Inappropriate Treatment of the Taurus Case Led to the Restructuring of the Narcotics Police

Subsequent events seemed to confirm this last version. One day after the arrests, Rogelio Suárez Cabrera escaped from Departmental Police Headquarters in Cochabamba. Case prosecutors later identified him as "the main connection to drug traffickers in Cochabamba and the rest of the country." The narcotics officers who were arrested, including Departmental Director, Col. Erwin Caballero Saucedo, were liberated and all charges against them were dropped, without further investigation of unofficial accounts that these officers received 250,000 dollars as a "protection payment".

The cases of the other twelve detainees passed to the national antinarcotics chief, Col. Carlos Fernández, who assigned the police judicial proceedings to the new Departmental Head of Narcotics, Col. Carlos Vizcarra Vilar. (12) Vizcarra's report found eleven of the twelve people in custody innocent. The fugitive, Rogelio Suárez, and one airport baggage carrier were found guilty.

The district attorneys rejected the findings, asserting that only eight of the detainees should be liberated. They accused the narcotics police of "a systematic cover-up of people under serious suspicion of crimes in drug trafficking cases" and "of preparing doctored statements." The prosecutors denounced threats, claiming that if something happened to them or their families, Col. Fernández, who they called "the dictator of drug-traffickers," would be to blame.

They stated in an open letter that: "The Committee (of the Fight Against Drug Trafficking) has been converted into a Super-State, to such a degree that no Bolivian can count on security or guarantees, and to the contrary, criminal elements can function with impunity through the entire nation." Fernández responded, "The Judiciary's role is to defend the State. In this case, though, it defended the criminals."

The incineration of the confiscated cocaine, supervised by Gustavo Sánchez and United States Embassy personnel, among others, turned out to be Fernández's last public appearance as Committee President. The new Law of National Police Regulations eliminated the President of the Republic's Committee and moved Narcotics within the institutional framework of the Bolivian National Police. This ended a confusing set of parallel powers that had persisted since the years of dictatorship.

Early in the investigation police discovered that Jorge Roca Suárez (Techo de Paja or "Thatched Roof") contracted the plane and owned the confiscated drugs. However, Roca Suárez was not charged in the first trial. Humberto Ustariz Torrico permitted the liberation of eleven of the twelve suspects, leaving the pilot, Mario Ríos Irigoyen, as the only accused. As a result, three of the Departmental district attorneys presented their resignations. One month later, a Superior Court called for a review of the case, which, for the first time, identified Roca as the alleged owner of the contraband. The court sentenced him to ten years in prison in July of 1988. Still a fugitive, Rogelio Suárez received a five year sentence. Interestingly, in December of 1993 it came to light that the Taurus case was never appealed to the Supreme Court. (13)

The Huanchaca Case and the Organization of Drug Rings in the Eighties

In September of 1986, the murder of scientist Noel Kempff Mercado and his traveling companions on the outskirts of a huge cocaine production complex, including a warehouse for chemical precursors, set off the scandal known as Huanchaca. (14) In spite of three investigations in subsequent years by the CongressionalChamber of Deputies, the case was never resolved. Today varied hypotheses exist about the clients, owners and suppliers of the industrial complex. According to Rodas Morales, the Huanchaca case revealed the peaceful coexistence of several drug trafficking rings in Bolivia, each with its own routes and connections to the state legal system. The subsequent police raids and judicial procedures did not equally affect the operations of all these rings. Rodas Morales concluded that, overall, the "camba"rings from Bolivia's eastern lowlands were harder hit than the "kollas" from the western highlands.

Oddly, although implicated in the case, Alejandro Pacheco received little attention, even from narcotics investigators and congressional inquest commissions. He did not testify in Santa Cruz and his name disappeared from official documents and Commission reports. Six days before his murder in 1986,Congressman Edmundo Salazar, a member of the first commission, affirmed, "The Congress members from the opposition parties required pressing preliminary charges against several people because sufficient proof of guilt existed. (They are) Jorge Roca Suárez, Alejandro Pacheco, Tita Roca and Sergio Vaca, because they are presumed to be the owners of the factory discovered in Huanchaca." (15)

Narcotics officer Ricardo Armaza Garrido's testimony to the congressional commission (which was later misplaced), established that narcotics personnel and the DEA knew about the factories in Huanchaca seven months before the triple murder. On August 19, 1986, UMOPAR personnel, led by Lt. Col. Germán Linares Iturralde and Jimmy Bradley of the DEA, stated that they had unsuccessfully attempted to land a DC-3 in the complex. They claimed that the landing strip was too narrow. However, pilots who later landed on the strip with similarly sized planes dispute this allegation.

The testimony of UMOPAR Lt. Commander Maj. Ciro Jijena Centeno was also misplaced. He repeatedly described high level protection for drug traffickers within his institution. Police Lt. Waldo Panoso Meneses later corroborated these statements. Both men presented evidence that this protection went as high as the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Barthelemy Martínez, through the secret agents "Miguel Angel" and "Gabriel". The latter was subsequently identified as Argentine citizen, Fabián Brizuela Mancilla, an ex-García Meza collaborator and security agent for the MNR during the 1985 elections. Four witnesses accused him of fundraising for drug traffickers with a Ministry of the Interior identification card. (16) In addition, Navy Captain Jaime Paredes Sempértegui denounced the institutional protection of drug trafficking during the Huanchaca period.

The Fate of the Whistle Blowers

All the government officials that "didn't keep their mouths shut" about corruption within their institutions were fired. Counter-accusations of supposed ties to drug-traffickers or terrorist organizations were made against them. The case of Paredes Sempértegui is representative. Constantino Yujra, accused of armed rebellion and tortured by police while giving his statement, asserted that "according to him (Col. Antonio Rojas Trujillo, Lt. Commander of Criminology), (Paredes) was the one that gave instructions to our group. What they wanted was for us to involve something false." (17)

Based on the 1995 investigations of the Narco Jet case, Congressman Ramiro Barrenechea (of the EJE Pachacuti party) denounced the existence of a "death squad" at the heart of the FELCN, used by drug traffickers to protect themselves against informants. The squad made certain that a total of 25 officials in 1995 had been "eliminated in a casual and suspicious fashion." Barrenechea testified that "Bolivian police, military personnel and civilians are active partners in chemical factories located in Chile," assuring that "the reports about this are in the hands of Intelligence, the DEA, and the Ministry of the Government." (18) The then-Minister of Government, Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, responded that Barrenechea "intimidates the FELCN in the name of drug trafficking."

Another suspect in the Huanchaca case, Humberto Nicanor Gil Suárez, mentioned by factory workers as one of the owners, avoided reprisals. The Santa Cruz Superior Court reached a verdict before either Criminology or the congressional commission could conclude their investigations. Oddly, his defense lawyer for this case simultaneously acted as a legal advisor for Narcotics. Before the verdict was reached, the accused escaped after admission into a hospital for warning signs of a heart attack. Gil Suárez was dishonorably discharged from the Bolivian Navy in 1973 for drug trafficking. A military intelligence document from February 1992, published as a result of the investigation of the Narco Naval case, specified that "After his discharge, he recruited (for his illicit activities) any officer or sergeant dishonorably discharged from the Navy." (19)

The Narco Naval Case:New Denunciations of Old Accusations

In spite of Congressman Barrenechea's concrete charges a year earlier, the "Narco Naval" case did not unfold until January of 1995. The arrest of Captain Pablo "Sacate" Justiniano Vaca, alleged organizer of a network protecting drug traffickers in the Bolivian Navy since 1975, brought the scandal to light. According to later reports, one motive for relieving Gen. Renato López Leytón as General Commander of the FELCN was his knowledge of Justiniano's illegal activities and his subsequent failure to take any action. (20) In reality, by 1987 journalists had established the existence of structures shielding drug traffickers based in the Navy's Center for Special Operations (COE). During this period reporters discovered that "The drugs stored in the COE base met the requirements of the Huanchaca factory for a long time." (21)

In 1988, after the arrest of five military personnel accused of drug trafficking, the Under Secretary of Social Defense, Jorge Alderete Rosales, received a FELCN report revealing that "Some members of the Bolivian Navy, stationed in Puerto Villarroel, obstructed efforts in the region." (22) The five military officers arrested, including Gen. Gustavo Arrázola Valenzuela, later escaped from the Military Police headquarters. According to Penal Prosecutor, Jaime Catacora Linares, they "were never arrested and no one subpoenaed them."

Another Narco Jet Raises New Questions About Intelligence

In the middle of the Narco Naval trial, on September 15, 1995, Peruvian police detained a cargo plane from the Bolivian company "Aerobol" transporting, along with furniture and refined handicrafts, 4,173 kilograms of cocaine chlorohydrate. According to the Lima newspaper La República,the plane left La Paz that morning on its way to Mexicali, destined to drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes, (23)(also known as the 'Lord of the Skies'), with co-funding from Juan García Abrego, leader of the "Gulf Cartel." (24) The Peruvian police boarded the plane using a bomb threat as a false pretense. The pilot spoke on the telephone with Luís Amado Pacheco, who later became known as the "boss of the export organization." That same day, police arrested Pacheco in downtown La Paz, along with his "main partner," Luís Fernando Rivero Liendo. Bolivian authorities spoke of a "blow to drug trafficking," though in the following days they constantly contradicted their own statements causing alternative scenarios of the case to surface.

In a preliminary statement United States' Ambassador to Bolivia, Curtis Kamman, commended the "close cooperation between Bolivia, Peru, and the United States." (25) The Under Secretary of Social Defense at the time, Victor Hugo Canelas, stated that "The mission is a credit to the FELCN." However, Augusto Francalanci, Information Director for the Peruvian Anti-drug Directorate (DINANDRO), affirmed that he received no information from the FELCN. It later became clear that the DEA in Bolivia transmitted the information directly to their Lima headquarters.

Based on confidential information, journalist Carlos D. Mesa denounced the existence of an "elite group" within the FELCN, headed by Intelligence Director Gonzalo Butrón Sánchez, who worked directly with the DEA. This group had possessed information about the plane since September 13, but permitted it to leave the country anyway. This news forced Ambassador Kamman to admit that the DEA discovered the plane's departure first, but that "As soon as they found out, they informed the Bolivian authorities." (26) A week later, the DEA admitted that Butrón had initially received the information, not FELCN commander Gen. Simón Sejas Tordoya. The DEA chief in Bolivia, Joseph López, finally briefed Sejas at noon on the fifteenth, three hours after the plane's take-off. (27)

In later statements, Sejas admitted having received warnings from his predecessor, Gen. López Leytón, about infiltration and corruption in the FELCN and the active interference of the DEA in its operations. (28) Sejas asserted that he had requested "cooperation" from the U. S. Embassy "so that the DEA could coordinate the war against drugs... because on many occasions he had witnessed missions that the FELCN did not even know about, instead [they were carried out by] organizations like the NAS, the DEA and others."

Members of the Congressional Opposition Struggle to Form an Investigative Commission

After continued insistence from opposition party members in Congress and the Minister of the Government, Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, the Chamber of Deputies formed a commission to investigate the case on September 27. Although it fell under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department, the Ministry of Government concluded the police investigation and submitted the findings to the commission. During the first weeks findings and denunciations suggested the involvement of Victor Hugo Canelas, as well as Guillermo Bedregal, President of the Chamber of Deputies, The commission struggled to broaden its powers. Ruling party (MNR) Congressman Edil Sandóval Morón stated, "The commission cannot exercise the functions of the Justice Department"....[but] according to the Law of Laws the institution is indivisible and of an autonomous nature...[as a result the commission] cannot call the Minister of the Government [or] the President of the Lower House of Congress to testify." In spite of this, in the Narco Connections case (29) the constitutional commission, headed by Sandóval did carry out the duties of the Justice Department. (30)

At the end of October 1995, Congressman Ernesto Machicao (MNR), who until then had presided over the congressional commission, resigned in order to serve as Ambassador to South Korea. Machicao supported holding public sessions and had defended the Commission's right of the to call officials of the Executive Branch to testify. For this reason opposition party commission members considered him "a guarantee of impartiality." These events provoked public comparison with the Huanchaca case, during which the Congressman and head of the Investigative Commission was sent to the USSR to serve as ambassador. (31) Ruling party congressman Oliverio Iriarte assumed the post of commission president. When the commission concluded its investigation, opposition member Sergio Medinacelli (MIR) recognized the importance of this change for the course of the investigations.

What the Congressional Commission Could Not Touch

Commission members failed to reach consensus in their conclusions. On February 2, 1996, it still appeared possible to submit a unified report, but the next day Medinacelli recognized that "the signing of the report is postponed because the executive branch pressured Commission members from the ruling party." (32) According to Congressman Tito Hoz de Vila (ADN), Iriarte told all the commission members that "If we demand that the FELCN police go to trial, we'll all get shot." (33)

What was this all about? During the congressional investigation, it came to light that the DEA had kept Barbaschocas under surveillance since at least May of 1995. Based on an informant, Steve, an anonymous tip gave them Pacheco's telephone number as a "possible drug trafficker." Apparently, they began a follow-up investigation that intensified in September of that year. On September 13, Capt. Oscar Bozo Lafuente from the FELCN Office of Controlled Chemicals (OCIAQ) received a tip about "a shipment of 3,500 kilograms of cocaine" taking off from La Paz.

It became clear from other FELCN officials' testimonies to the commission that Bozo Lafuente and the head of OCIAQ, Maj. Javier Mendoza Mostacedo, knew the location of the drugs and other details about the shipment's preparation that day. Instead of reporting to his superiors, Mendoza informed DEA liaison Jim Kirk, "to verify the information." Based on this insight and support from US based agents in San Diego and San Antonio, assistant DEA Director Emilio García discovered the plan to use furniture to hide the cocaine. On September 14, one day before the plane's departure, García asked the head of the intelligence office (JNIFC), Gonzalo Butrón, to put Pacheco's residence under surveillance. (34)

The Aeroperu Case Complicated Official Explanations

On October 31, 1995, Police Lt. Jorge Luís Castelú Coca, commander of the FELCN's Second Control Group in La Paz, revealed that the OCIAQ and JNIFC coordinated the September 9th clandestine shipping of a package of drugs to Mexico, through Sub-Lt. Armando Moscoso, who they declared "was an undercover agent in a drug ring." (35) They aborted the mission, later known as the Aeroperú case, due to the presence of FELCN officers at the airport, including Lt. Castelú, who received orders from his Superior, Col. Figueredo Pizarroso, to pretend to not recognize any undercover agents because it [the mission] was illegal.

Apparently, Maj. Mendoza carried out the mission without his superiors' knowledge. Gen. Simón Sejas (FELCN Commander) was not informed of the Aeroperúmission. The lieutenant commander, Col. Fernando Tarifa Verasteguí, testified that a DEA official informed him in advance that he disagreed with the mission and ordered Col. Figueredo to cancel it.

Figueredo ordered the arrest of the undercover agent. Mendoza later authorized his release. Castelú followed the vehicle that removed the package of drugs from the airport. Ironically, he found it, along with Mendoza, near one of Barbaschocas' warehouses. Mendoza ordered him to not inform anyone about the mission. Castelú sent a report to his boss, Col. Figueredo, anyway.

On September 14, Castelú and Lt. Milton Alvarado Hoyos, head of the First Control Group at the airport received, memoranda granting them leave to study for their police promotion exams. (36) When Castelú arrived at the airport the next day, the Narco Jet had already taken off. The lieutenant witnessed a conversation between Col. Gonzalo Butrón and DEA agent, Jimmy Castillo about the possibility of making the plane return, during which Castillo said, "The drugs are what's most important." According to statements of agent Lt. Juan Carlos Espinoza Pozo, Butrón, DEA agents, and a group of at least eight members of the JNIFC were in the airport 25 minutes before the plane took off. No one did anything to stop it until noon , when they finally attempted,unsuccessfully, to force the plane to return to La Paz. (37)

The night of September 15th, Castelú and Alvarado were arrested for "abandoning their posts." Later disciplinary action was taken against Castelú, but not Alvarado. In an effort to keep him from discussing the case, OCIAQ and JNIFC officers threatened Castelú and his family immediately after he informed Gen. Sejas about the Aeroperumission on September 30th.

The Discovery of a Paramilitary Group in the Police Force

The contradictory testimony of Lt. Edwin Sivila Bernal, a participant in the Aeroperú mission, led Congressman Ramiro Barrenechea to denounce on November 6th that a police unit, the Center of Special Police Operations (COPES), was erasing evidence discovered by the commission. According to Barrenechea, it was made up of "elite personnel, occupying key posts in the intelligence area that date from the García Meza dictatorship. It appears to be a brotherhood (that functions) outside of Police regulations." Protection for drug trafficking was one of COPES'sobjectives. (38) Barrenechea revealed that when commission members went to inspect one of Barbaschocas' warehouses near the airport, "some foreigners, who did not identify themselves and belittled the public prosecutors entered without any problem and or national authorization." He added that" instead of gathering proof and evidence, the district attorneys investigating the Narco Jet case made them disappear, they erased them." (39)

Three weeks earlier, the main defendant in the Narco Statue case, Jesús Hernando "Nando" Gutiérrez Mansilla, had blamed the COPES group for his arrest, "although Butrón and Capt. Israel Vega signed as responsible." According to Gutiérrez, COPES agents took him to a detention house where FELCN and DEA agents tortured him. (40) Congressional commission members deduced that, "Apparently a structure to protect drug trafficking exists within the OCIAQ." The newspaper Primera Plana, presented the hypothesis that even before the departure of the Narco Jet, the DEA had investigated FELCN commanders and officers, as well as Barbaschocasbefore his arrest, in an effort to reveal their protectors. The Narco Jet was a kind "acid test" to confirm to what degree drug traffickers had infiltrated Bolivian state institutions.

Ruling Party Politicians Conclude Investigations

Undercover operation or not, the Narco Jet case still presents numerable loose ends. Approved under great duress from the Minister of the Government, the congressional commission's majority report merely requested that Maj. Mendoza and Col. Butrón undergo internal disciplinary action within the FELCN. (The minority report requested that criminal charges be filed against both officers.) Similarly, the majority report concluded all investigations of accusations against Carlos Sánchez Berzaín, Victor Hugo Canelas and Guillermo Bedregal.

The inappropriate handling of the case also raised doubts about Alejandro Sosa Téllez, identified as an ex-leader of the Pacheco ring. Sosa Téllez was one of the accused in the Narco Naval case.

According to Pacheco, he became Sosa Téllez's partner in 1993. After his disappearance on March 29,1994, Sosa and his brother, Marcos, were supposedly murdered by Mexican drug traffickers . However, on June 14,1997, the General Director of the FELCN, Roberto Pérez Tellería, informed the press that he had "sufficient evidence to presume that the Sosa brothers are alive, and that "not long ago they were sighted in the city of La Paz." (41) Soon after, the First Court of Controlled Substances of La Paz sentenced those convicted in the Narco Jet case. The 25 year legal sentence for Pacheco was reduced to 13 years due to his "repentance and cooperation with the authorities in the total resolution of the case." Alejandro Sosa was sentenced en absentia to 16 years in prison. (42)

According to Guillermo Bedregal's ex-wife, Esperanza Meave, Sosa ran the MNR's campaign in the provinces of the Department of La Paz. Germán Quiroga of the MNR claimed that Dr. Carlos Pérez Guzmán carried out that work. Pérez Guzmán is Sosa's brother-in-law and Canelas Zannier's ex-wife's brother. These family ties only came to light when Barbaschocas found out about his imminent sentencing for drug trafficking.

According to Pacheco: The statements of Pérez Guzmán as well as others implicated in this case were not taken into account and without the participation of some of the members of the congressional commission (...). Clearly, they attempted to hide the close and familiar relationship between the Alejandro Sosa Téllez-Beatriz Pérez Guzmán de Sosa family, the Víctor Hugo Canelas Zannier-Felicia Jaimes Antelo family, the family of Dr. Carlos Pérez Guzmán- Blanca Jaimes Antelo, and Fernando Jaimes Via-a-Victoria Pérez Guzmán de Jaimes, [a relationship] that constituted a political and economic family clan...that made large contributions to the MNR's campaign in the 1989 and 1993 elections. (43)

According to Pacheco, Sosa Téllez and Pérez Guzmán would receive state protection. Minister of Government Canelas defended himself with the old standard, that you can't trust a convicted drug trafficker because he is attempting to destabilize state structures. (44)

Devotion with Bitter Aftertaste

During this past administration, the MNR, the party that lead the 1952 revolution, privatized Bolivia's large state industries. Historically, they have supported the police force, but the true nature of this support remains unclear. A careful analysis of the handling of the Taurus and Narco Jet cases inevitably points to one conclusion: In spite of the implementation of various reforms, the Bolivian state is unable to control police intelligence efforts, which are the crux of the fight against drug trafficking. Unofficial coordination between United States and Bolivian officials detracts from the state's ability to direct antinarcotic efforts. In the event of controversy, foreign officials are granted diplomatic immunity. Bolivian officials are merely tried within the framework of their own institutions. But, the possibility of a more disheartening second option exists: The paramilitary organizations within the police force may be connected with interests other than the war on drugs, and even the illegal trafficking itself.

A second conclusion of the analysis of these and other cases in the history of the Bolivian cocaine business is that the fight against drug traffickers is not carried out using uniform criteria. While antinarcotic efforts interfere with some rings' operations, others continue to operate and grow without much difficulty, although they have been identified by intelligence agencies. Barbaschocas is a good example. Although his name appeared on the DEA list of suspected drug traffickers since 1994, he maintained an indefinite entry visa into the United States. (45)

The behavior of the ministers and high level leadership of the governing party during the Narco Jet case is questionable. They have skillfully avoided deep investigations of evidence which could have revealed the modus operandiof drug trafficking in Bolivia in terms of the economic, political, and police protection it recieves.

Alejandro Pacheco, Barbaschocas' father, directed the MNR's political campaign from the San Pedro Prison in La Paz during the 1997 elections. He was released the following month. The Virgin of Candelaria of Copacabana must have received some special offerings. She continues to protect the Bolivian National Police from any repercussions.


1. Although it falls outside of the scope of the present article, it is interesting that various (ex-) officers of the Bolivian Army, implicated or suspected of illegal drug or arms trafficking received training sometime during their professional careers at the School of the Americas, currently in Fort Benning, Georgia. One example is Arce Gómez, known as the "Cocaine Minister" who is currently serving a prison sentence in the United States. (Communication Officer Course, 1958). Other examples are: Carlos Fernández González (see text, Military Intelligence Course, 1961); Freddy López Arispe (arrested in 1993 on charges of illegal arms trafficking to ex-Yugoslavia (Infantry Officer Course, 1962); José Raúl Gallardo Sempértegui (arrested and freed a few days later in the Narco Jet case, Military Intelligence Course, 1964); Grover Bilbao Terrazas (accused in the Narco Jet case; Cadet Course, 1967); Luis Ardaya Roca (accused in the Narco Jet case; Cadet Course, 1967); Isaac Chavarría Diez de Medina (the presumed drug-trafficker linked to leaders of the political party, MIR in the Narco Connections scandal, Cadet Course, 1968, General Supply Officer Course, 1970); Miguel Alvarez Delgado (accused and released in the narco naval scandal, Joint Operations Course, 1977); and Pablo Oswaldo Justiniano Vaca (principal accused in the narco-naval case, Commando and General Staff Course, 1986).
2. Barbaschocas' testimony before FELCN authorities, only published three weeks after his arrest and appeared to be altered, details some parts of his history in the cocaine business.
3. "Cocaine Dictatorship" is the name given the de facto government of García Meza (1980-1), because it attempted to base the Bolivian economy on income from the production and sale of coca and cocaine.
4. The letter mentioned appeared in various newspapers. This specific quotation: Los Tiempos 24 Sept. 1995.
5. Gerardo Irusta and Edwin Miranda, De Huanchaca al Narcoavión (La Paz: Gráfica Latina, 1995). An interesting account of this independization process, which includes several murders of Colombian drug traffickers.
6. For a detailed description of this process, see: Hugo Rodas Morales, Huanchaca: Modelo político empresarial de la cocaína en Bolivia (La Paz: Plural Editores/CID, 1996).

7. Narcotráfico y Política II , (Cochabamba: 1985) 96.
8. Ibid., 259, cit. El Diario 1 Sept. 1984. During the civilian government of Lidia Gueiler (removed from office by the García Meza coup), Fernández was fired from his post as Under Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior, due to concrete denunciations of his connections to drug-trafficking
9. This story was published in response to a series of denunciations made by Barbaschocas, who in April of 1997 accused the Minister of the Government, Victor Hugo Canelas, of maintaining close personal ties to two of the key defendants in the Narco Jet case, Alejandro Sosa Téllez and Fernando Jaimes Via-a. Hoy 31 May 1985; La Razón 7 June 1997; El Deber 7 June 1997.
10. The sources for the Taurus case are: Los Tiempos 3 Apr. 1985; Los Tiempos 4 Apr. 1985; Opinión 4 Apr. 1985; Los Tiempos 5 Apr. 1985; Los Tiempos 8 Apr. 1985; Los Tiempos 9 Apr. 1985; Hoy, 4-28-85; Los Tiempos 28 Apr. 1985; Opinión, 30 May 1985.
11. He had been arbitrarily detained during the an earlier mission within the framework of his post,
12. Human Rights Commission of the Lower Chamber of Congress, Denuncias de torturas a ciudadanos sindicados de alzamiento armado (La Paz: Bolivian Congress, 1995) 242. Vizcarra resurfaces a year later in this report that compiled denunciations implicating Vizcarra, as Commander of Criminology, in torture, harassment, coercion, and abuses.
13. In Bolivia, every judicial case must pass through all three levels of the court system: the District, Superior and Supreme Courts.
14. Although different versions about Huanchaca exist most likely the zone contained cocaine factories and a warehouse for chemical precursors, with a production capacity unprecedented in the history of the war on drugs in Bolivia.
15. Hoy 24 Apr. 1992.
16. Rodas, 1995.
17. Human Rights Commission , Honorable Chamber of Deputies, "Denuncias de torturas a ciudadanos sindicados de alzamiento armado" p. 38. La Paz, 1995.
18. Presencia 21 Sep. 1995.
19. Presencia 10 Feb. 1995.
20. Los Tiempos 17 Feb. 1995.
21. Hoy 16 Dec. 1988.
22. Los Tiempos 14 Oct. 1988.
23. During the first week of July, 1997 the news surfaced that Carrillo Fuentes had died as a result of medical problems. At the time of this article's publication, the results of genetic tests to confirm the identity of the corpse have still not been presented.
24. El Día 17 Sep. 1985. García Abrego was arrested in Mexico in January 1996 and immediately extradited to the United States.
25. Primera Plana 21 Sep. 1995.
26. Hoy 4 Oct. 1995.
27. Hoy 10 Oct. 1995.
28. Presencia 4 Nov. 1995, El Mundo 9 Nov. 1995.
29. This case investigated presumed links between ex-president, Jaime Paz Zamora and high-ranking officials in his party (MIR) with drug lords.
30. La Razón 25 Oct. 1995.
31. Última Hora 25 Oct. 1995.
32. Opinión 4 Feb. 1996.
33. Los Tiempos 12 Feb. 1996.
34. El Diario 1 Nov. 1995, El Deber 1 Nov. 1995, Presencia, 20 Oct. 1995
35. Los Tiempos 1 Nov. 1995.
36. La Razón 1 Nov. 1995.
37. Hoy 9 Nov. 1995.
38. Última Hora 7 Nov. 1995.
39. Los Tiempos 7 Nov. 1995.
40. El Deber 19 Oct. 1995.
41. Los Tiempos 15 June 1997.
42. The verdict in the Narco Naval case was more favorable. Alejandro Sosa, the presumed contact with the Colombians (La Razón 18 Mar. 1995) or the cocaine supplier (El Deber 13 June 1997) was acquitted (El Diario 13 June 1997).
43. Hoy 31 May 1995.
44. This argument, although partially valid, is arbitrarily applied. The judicial process that took place between 1995 and 1996 against high-ranking MIR party leaders and resulted in the sentencing of Oscar Eid Franco (The Narco Connections case) began as a result of denunciations made by Carmelo (Meco) Domínguez Vaca.
45. This treatment is in sharp contrast to the situation of MIR leaders, whose visas have been "definitively" withdrawn for suspected connections to drug traffickers.