Bolivia Refocuses Fight for Socioeconomic Stability

Just this past October, Bolivian president Evo Morales and his team launched a new project to combat drug trafficking in his nation. The Centro Regional de Inteligencia Antinarcoticos or CERIAN, as it is called will nationalize the push to find, prosecute and eliminate the scourge that has plagued many Latin American nations for decades. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Bolivia is the third largest coca bush (the plant from which narcotics are derived) producer in the world.

Bolivia is also the poorest country in South America, making the coco plant a major resource for a poor populace. Decades of inequity and inadequate development has ensured that 40 percent of Bolivians live in abject poverty. This makes fighting the scourge of poverty and illegal drug sales a real challenge for the Bolivian government. With a gross domestic product of 37.51 billion according to 2017 World Bank figures, Bolivia’s fight against drug trafficking has seen some inroads, thanks to aggressive policies like CERIAN and geopolitical changes.

Bolivia is also the poorest country in South America, making the coco plant a major resource for a poor populace. Decades of inequity and inadequate development has ensured that 40 percent of Bolivians live in abject poverty. This makes fighting the scourge of poverty and illegal drug sales a real challenge for the Bolivian government.

While there are competing narratives on the estimated total, it is certain that the illegal drug trade is a trillion dollar industry. Small economies in the Americas often fell prey to the scourge during its height from 1980s to 2000. Bolivia was no exception.

Many Americans remember this period via the 1980s Crack Epidemic and Iran Contra Affair/the McFarlane Affair (for Iran). The scandal which rocked the White House, revealed that US intelligence agencies were using the proceeds of drug sales and arms sales to Iran to fund a guerilla war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. A further report by reporter Garry Webb of the San Jose Mercury News revealed that the drug sales were targeted at poor Black American communities. The operation (similar to JSOC missions of today) spurred the mass incarceration and crack abuse epidemic, which devastated those communities to this day and resulted in millions, perhaps hundreds dead in both the US and Latin America.

The scandal which rocked the White House, revealed that US intelligence agencies were using the proceeds of drug sales and arms sales to Iran to fund a guerilla war against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.

It is difficult then, for small developing economies in Latin America, situated near powerful neighbors to eliminate the scourge of drug trafficking and production in their borders. According to the American Addiction Center, nearly 40 percent of American adults have a drug addiction, with a medical cost of 740 billion dollars annually to manage. This makes stemming the demand for illegal drugs nearly impossible for small nations in Latin America, which makes insurgency and crime unavoidable. According to a stinging report from the Washington Post, Latin America comprises 33 percent of the worlds crime, but comprises only 8 percent of the global population. The report went on to say that Mexico, Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela account for nearly 25 percent of all murders on the planet. These nations are in crises and have been for decades, battling guerrilla wars funded by external actors that leave the nation, its people and economy in shambles.

According to the American Addiction Center, nearly 40 percent of American adults have a drug addiction, with a medical cost of 740 billion dollars annually to manage.

Perhaps Latin America has not gotten its socioeconomic footing, largely due to massive regional instability that makes one of the most fertile regions in the world a dead-zone for drug sales, sex trafficking, poverty and murder. Bolivia, through its new initiative with CERIAN seeks to close this gap to create more viable opportunities for its people and growth for its local economy. Only time will tell if Bolivia will be able to harness its resources and land for all of its people, and successfully combat elements creating instability in its nation.

“In this experience with CERIAN, our police officers are demonstrating that it is possible to fight without any interference (…) this result that we have had in a short time has been successful, thanks to [these] operations, big fish have fallen.” A release from the Bolivian government said.

Perhaps we may learn from Bolivia and its efforts to stabilize its nation through safeguards against drug trafficking and externally funded military interventions that hamper national economic productivity.

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