Bolivia seizes $450 million of cocaine in second-biggest drug bust

By Thomson Reuters Mar 19, 2024 | 11:09 AM

By Daniel Ramos

LA PAZ (Reuters) – Bolivian police have carried out the second-largest drug bust in the country’s history, seizing more than 7.2 tons of cocaine destined for Belgium with a street value of nearly half a billion U.S. dollars, the interior minister said.

The operation was carried out in Bolivia’s highland region of Pisiga, on the border with Chile. The drugs were hidden in two trucks transporting scrap iron for export to Europe through Chilean ports on the Pacific.

“If we take into account the price of these controlled substances in the country of destination, we’re talking about an impact on drug trafficking of more than $451 million,” Interior Minister Eduardo del Castillo said at a press conference on Monday.

Del Castillo reported that the seller of the drugs had fled the country to the United States, which he blamed on information being leaked from the prosecutor’s office to the media.

In January, Bolivian police carried out the country’s biggest anti-drug operation by seizing more than 8 tons of cocaine, also on the border with Chile.

Bolivia is one of the world’s top producers of coca, the raw ingredient used to make cocaine. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has noted a significant rise in shipments of the drug from the “Southern Cone” of South America, often to Europe.

(Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Ros Russell)