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Report: U.S. Investigating High-Ranking Bolivian Officials for Drug Cartel Ties

A report in Spanish newswire EFE claims the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is investigating a number of high-ranking officials in Bolivia for having ties to drug trafficking cartels. The information allegedly arrived in American hands through a Colombian informant.

The EFE claims to have received access to a judicial document that names a number of significant political actors in the South American nation as cooperating with drug traffickers, including Walter Álvarez Agramonte, the pilot of President Evo Morales’s plane, and two senior advisors to the Vice President. Vice President Álvaro Garcia Linera’s father Rául García is also on the list. The group was allegedly secretly indicted in a larger drug trafficking scheme.

The news report did not specify the details of the drug trafficking charges, other than that the information surfaced through an operation by a DEA office in Paraguay. The Bolivian government was quick to remind the press that the DEA has not been allowed to operate in that country since 2009.

In a statement, the Bolivian government made clear that they denied any ties to illicit drug trafficking on the part of any senior officials, calling the report an attempt to “smear” President Morales. They do contribute a new, significant detail: the name of the man allegedly accusing these officials of wrongdoing. According to Bolivian officials, a man named Carlos Toro—a longtime DEA informant working with the Medellín Cartel of Colombia—gave the DEA these names. Toro, the statement claims, “accuses the DEA of using him to ‘accuse’ at least three people allegedly linked to the government in an undercover operation run out of Paraguay.”

Toro is currently suing the United States government to the tune of five million dollars—not because the information he provided was wrong, but because he believes he was more valuable to American authorities than they believed him to be. Toro worked with the DEA between 1986 and 2015, and he claims that he deserves to be compensated far more than he has been for his contributions to developing several cases against drug traffickers.

“The American agency resorts to disqualified elements in its zeal to force investigations that aim to tarnish the image of President Evo Morales,” the Bolivian government statement concludes.

In addition to the specific indictments, the United States recently decertified Bolivia, a practice that, VICE News explains, “allows the US to withdraw aid packages, and impose certain additional measures on a government that is deemed to not be cooperating with American directives.” The move follows allegations that Bolivia has continued to fail to comply with international law regarding narcotics.

President Evo Morales himself was once a coca farmer and has been a vocal advocate for the development of the coca leaf as a legitimate agricultural product, despite its most commonly known use as the source for cocaine. He has not shied away from using stunts to publicize less widely-known uses for coca, including commissioning a coca leaf birthday cake for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and offering Pope Francis coca leaves to chew as a means to fight altitude sickness upon his arrival to the Andean country. Bolivian media reported that the Pope accepted the coca leaves, though this was not confirmed.

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