(Bloomberg) -- Bolivian counter-narcotics forces made their biggest drug bust in 10 years, taking down a cocaine processing plant, Government Minister Alfredo Rada said.
Rada, in remarks broadcast today on La Paz-based Radio Fides, said the anti-drug police force, known as the FELCN, discovered a 400-hectare (988-acre) property in Santa Cruz province that was being used as a “factory of drugs, of cocaine.” He said the FELCN had already dismantled the factory.
“It’s magnitude and characteristics would have to make it the biggest strike to narcotics trafficking, not only under President Evo Morales, but in the past decade,” Rada said.
Bolivia is the world’s third-biggest producer of coca, the raw ingredient used to make cocaine, after Colombia and Peru. About 28,900 hectares in the country were dedicated to coca production in 2007, more than double the 12,000 hectares allowed under Bolivian law, according to the most recent United Nations drug report.
The FELCN arrested two Colombian citizens and a Bolivian as part of the operation, Rada said.
Coca leaves are consumed widely by Bolivians who say it helps them endure long hours at high altitudes and quell hunger. Morales, a former coca farmer, asked the United Nations to decriminalize and recognize traditional uses of the leaf in a March 12 letter to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
He says he opposes cocaine production and that the drug needs to be managed by controlling consumption in the U.S. and Europe.
Morales expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Nov. 3, accusing the agency of trying to undermine his government. The U.S. government has denied the allegations.
By Jonathan J. Levin
Published: March 27